Saturday, July 10, 2010

Everyone's Entitled to My Opinion: About "Places in the Heart"

How far apart are the natural and spiritual?  Robert Benton’s 1984 quiet masterpiece, Places in the Heart, explores the distance between the two.

Filmed on location in Waxahachie, Texas, this movie tells the compelling story of a Depression era family facing tragedy and poverty while maintaining their identity and dignity before God and man. Its characters are deeply flawed people thrown together by circumstances beyond their imagining. Somehow they must judge wisely between what matters and what seems to matter. This movie answers the question posed to Jesus by a lawyer: “Who is my neighbor?”

Places in the Heart is not an overtly Christian movie, and that’s a good thing. Some Evangelical ministries attempt to make “Christian movies with a message,” which is a really bad idea: when an art form elevates message above craft both the craft and message suffer. The characters in this movie quite naturally live their lives in a “Christian town.” If any Christian claims are made during the film, they are revealed in due course. Thus when the town’s mortgage banker is also a church deacon the movie naturally explores the relationship between the two identities residing in the same man. Eventually we discover the multiple identities of nearly every character in the movie.

Nominated for seven Academy Awards (Sally Field won for best actress and Benton for original screenplay), Places in the Heart presents a fine cast: Sally Field, Danny Glover, John Malkovich, and Ed Harris. Robert Benton’s direction is understated. He trusts the story without resorting to unnecessary drama. The pace is unhurried and the ending will cause you realize that the Kingdom of God breaks into our day and age more than we expect.

In my opinion any disciple who loves films ought to own this movie.

1 comment:

  1. I wholeheartedly agree. One of my all-time favorite movies. I remember being stunned by the last scene when I first saw it 26 years ago. I still am. No other movie I've seen gives such a clear declaration that all things are reconciled in Him.

    Another very similar movie (and shot in some of the same places) is Robert Duvall's "Tender Mercies."