Starring: Chris Cooper, Elizabeth Pena, Kris Kristofferson, Matthew McConaughey
Director: John Sayles
If you look this film up online, you’ll find that most people describe it as “multi-faceted” and that it will stay with you for days after watching.
A body is uncovered in the desert. The sheriff, Sam (Cooper), suspects that it’s his predecessor, Charlie Wade (Kristofferson), a man who was not generally liked, and who disappeared a long time ago after being threatened by the sheriff’s own father, Buddy (McConaughey), who was then a deputy.
As Sam starts to look into the case, he suspects that his father, a much admired man, had something to do with it. However, his own memories of his father are complicated by unresolved emotions.
As Sam investigates, the film cuts back in time to reveal parts of the story. Charlie Wade terrorising the town. Wade’s corruption and sadistic nature. Sam’s relationship with his father. Other people’s memories of events leading up to the disappearance. What Sam struggles with a lot is how his father is known as a fair man, but who broke off a relationship between Sam and his Hispanic girlfriend Pilar (Pena) when they were teens because of his views of race relations. Sam has never forgotten Pilar, and finds reasons to try to rekindle their romance when her son gets into trouble with the law, much to the objection of her mother.
That gives you some idea of what the events of the film are, but not what it’s about. And I think that that’s why the film stays with you. Texas, the Lone Star state, it’s sense of independence and racial relations are at the forefront of this film, juxtaposing old attitudes with new ways of being, and showing where tensions remain, where the scars are. The town is like a microcosm of Texas, of the social milieu, the segregation of Blacks, Mexican and Anglo, as well as the Native American population all struggling for a voice. But it doesn’t preach, it just observes. There are no easy answers here.
Why is it a must see film: Because it’s different. It’s not a simple film at all, but explores a whole culture, a whole issue in a simple way. There’s a mystery and a love story, a guy trying to figure out his father. But there’s so much more. And… well, the ending is really something!
See It If:You can see this film because you want to understand race relations or because you like a good mystery. Either way, you won’t be disappointed