The Lonely Centrist

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Friday, July 22, 2005

Friday Night Video: "Heartland" Inspires

This Friday we're watching "Heartland," a 1980 film based on the real life diaries of Elinore Stewart. This is an inspiring flick that both sexes enjoy - the men for its frontier setting and the hardy role played by Rip Torn, the women for its strong heroine and quiet, yet moving story of a different kind of love then we usually see today.

In the film, Stewart (played by Conchata Ferrell) , recently widowed in Denver, responds to a newspaper ad for a housekeeper for flinty Scottish farmer Rip Torn, in the wilds of Wyoming. The year is 1910. Stewart is accompanied by her 10 year old daughter. The movie is unhurried and often sparse in dialogue - it seems to be true that on the frontier they didn't waste many words - and simply tracks her first years in Wyoming. Besides keeping house, Stewart attempts to homestead, but struggles. Torn helps her through the first winter, which she barely survives. Over that winter, Torn and Ferrell also fall in love, in that old fashioned way that is more a mixture of loneliness and deep respect for the other person's inner most qualities rather than any bodice-ripping passion, and marry. Ferrell is nearly late for her own wedding, for which she bakes her own cake and makes her own dress, because of the never-ending chores.

Meanwhile, nature continues to take its toll. The couples' first child dies; when Torn refuses to sell his cattle at what he feels are unfairly low prices, and a hard winter follows, the couple lose most of their herd and starvation becomes a real possibility. Yet throughout, the film remains calm and understated - my favorite scene is when Torn sees his first motor car, and silently checks it out.

This film will make you appreciate, if you don't already, what has been made in America, through the hard work and sacrifice of so many who came before us. It is a moving story about real people facing real trials without glory or notice, and rising to meet them in the harshest environment. It is a true pioneer story, with an inspiring ending that makes you want to bust out singing "America."

It's very hard to find these days, but is available on DVD if you look.

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