10 March 2016 | nzpedals
deserves to be among the greatest movies of all time,
It's a real story, and I know who the characters are immediately. But the best part is the superb acting by Kathy Baker. This is her movie from start to finish. Sure, the others, (Weller, Smitrovich ) are good, but nothing in comparison to Baker.
Her voice, the tone, the pauses, the eyes, the gestures, combine to tell the exact emotion, in an emotion-packed story. There is worry, doubt, fear, a tiny bit of joy - it's all there, compassion too. Not much to laugh about, in fact nothing at all, but that's not necessary in such a gripping story.
Set in small-town USA in the forties, where the mill is supposedly short of able-bodied men. Flashbacks tell of the background as the horrible foreman acquires a wife from the distraught and stupid son of another horrible person who had locked his wife in a share-croppers shack for two years.
As he is led away after being caught, he shouts "She's my wife, she belongs to me", and that seems to be the attitude of his son Sheb (John Glover) who later becomes a Baptist minister and proclaims the same horrible code. Maggie (Kathy Baker) is his sister. Sheb callously gives her to Pink Gresham, the Parrish Mill foreman. Pink cheats on his workers - deducting $5 *more* from their pay packet than usual (that would be a huge amount in today's money), but the workers are powerless to complain. Pink cheats on his wife too, spending the night with cute Sara (rather oddly, the credits say "Sarah's father"? (Danny Nelson) who doesn't say a word. His face says it all - disapproval, but powerless to interfere.
Someone else that Pink has hurt is Baston Morris, (Weller) with whom Pink had stayed for a week whilst looking for workers to replace men who have been drafted or enlisted in the war. Pink buys gifts for the Morris children and especially their mother (another actor who doesn't say a word). The wife says (in a letter that Baston finds) that she will leave Baston and go to live with Pink. Needless to say, that upsets Morris so much that he comes after Pink. And gets him.
When Morris shows up at the Gresham house, on the other side of the river with no road access, Maggie is effectively held hostage. She tries to get help from a neighbor, but fails. To add to the fear and danger, there are a pack of wild dogs in the area. Morris deals to them and threatens to do the same to Maggie unless she agrees to help him escape.
There are a couple of very short scenes, half a second long, that need to be noticed and their relevance understood. That might take a second or third viewing of the DVD, well worth it. The neighbor's young son has seen a critical event between Maggie and Morris. That leads to the arrival of the Sheriff, and the inevitable conclusion.
Great writing, lots of memorable lines, great direction and production. My only complaint might be the title, OK, there is a bit of killing, but that's not the main story, so perhaps "Hostage Affair" might have been better.