Sometimes you can miss an actor’s entire career until you casually stumble on a performance by them.
I’ve never seen anything that Hilary Swank (PS, I Love You; Million Dollar Baby) has done and yet she’s quite simply superb in The Homesman.
The movie is written, produced, directed and also stars Tommy Lee Jones who puts in yet another solid performance on-screen.
The story is set in the 1850s in Nebraska, an incredibly tough time for the various folks who tried to make a living in the dust and dirt.
For some it proved just too much.
Swank plays an independent frontierswoman Mary Bee Cuddy, doing a decent job of cutting out an existence on her smallholding.
However, the wives of three frontiersmen are not so fortunate. Following desperate tragedies and the sheer overwhelming harshness of life they have mentally cracked under the strain.
So Cuddy is asked to take them hundreds of miles across Nebraska to be looked after by a minister’s wife (Meryl Streep in a pleasing cameo).
On the way she saves the life of a complete reprobate George Briggs (Jones).
We follow their trip as they encounter all manner of perils.
Jones’ deliberate move to show how small and alien man’s mark on the natural environment is creates an amazing movie.
Towns are just a handful of buildings dropped in a magnificent sweeping scenery and you get a real sense of just how tough life was.
Cuddy and Briggs’ sparky relationship is at the heart of the film.
However, Tommy Lee Jones is happy to throw in a surprise midway through that many directors would have been too scared to even consider.
There are great performances all-round, including Grace Gummer (Meryl Streep’s daughter) as one of the unstable women, and Hailee Steinfeld in a short but delightful cameo.
But Swank is the star for me and surely merits some more meaty roles.
Overall, this gritty Western is a great work that didn’t get the plaudits it deserved during its cinema release. I fancy it’ll pick up a lot of fans who see the DVD.
The Homesman (15) 122mins
Director: Tommy Lee Jones
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank