Sunday, January 24, 2021

Places in the Heart

Movie Name:
Places in the Heart
Year of Release: 1984
Director: Robert Benton
Starring: Sally Field, John Malkovich, Lindsay Crouse, Danny Glover, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Yankton Hatten, Gennie James, Terry O'Quinn, Lane Smith, Ray Baker, Jay Patterson, Bert Remsen, De'voreaux White
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
Writer/Producer/Director Robert Benton, may not have had a very prolific career thus far, but his directorial efforts have been peppered with very interesting and for the most part, well received films. Following his successful "Kramer vs. Kramer", and the not so very critically praised "Still of the Night", the director got back in the spotlight with "Places in the Heart" which went on to win several accolades and be nominated for many more. The film follows the story of Edna Spalding, a wife to a sheriff in a small town in the South, during the 1940s. She suddenly sees herself in the precarious situation of being a widower with bills to pay and two small children to raise, following an unfortunate accident where her husband gets shot and is instantly killed. Edna hasn't much money in the bank, has a mortgage payment due on her farm and house, and her sister Margaret sadly, can't do much to help her either. Edna decides to take upon the offer of a day laborer, who suggests that they can have a cotton plantation, which will satisfy her money woes. She also sees herself in the situation of being a landlord of sorts, when she's forced to take a resident in her house, which comes in the shape of Mr. Will, a blind war veteran, whom the bank manager imposes on her. This group of individuals unite all with the sole purpose of making sure Edna manages to save her farm and keep her family together.
Robert Benton is well known for making films that are essentially character studies. Films where ordinary, every day characters are forced to deal with traumatic events, and eventually surpass them or learn to live with them. In the case of "Places in the Heart", the film tackles the tribulations of a woman suddenly having to fend for herself and her children, at times where women didn't have many options. It's of course a distilled version of what those tribulations were, but the film does try to tackle issues such as women's emancipation and racism. What has always been interesting about Robert Benton's films is the fact that he allows for his characters to have distinct energies and conflicts, ultimately becoming more than clich├ęs. However his films always stop short of giving a sense of rawness or for that matter, to authentically capture the ordeals and messiness of those same characters. Nonetheless "Places in the Heart" manages to succinctly capture a moment in time, where the challenges for minorities were colossal, and where the iron will of this woman and her persistence managed to keep her afloat. The cast is uniformly fantastic, with Sally Field, John Malkovich, Lindsay Crouse and Danny Glover all creating memorable and heartfelt characters. The cinematography from the late Nestor Almendros is stunning as is the score from John Kander. Worth watching.