Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Light Between Oceans

                                     “Turn out the lights The party’s over”
                                                                      Willie Nelson, “The Party’s Over” on the 1967 album 
                                                                 The Party's Over and Other Great Willie Nelson Songs

(Click on this link to hear Willie's sad song if you like or you can start here to listen to the entire album which has several tunes appropriate to the overall somber, melancholy mood of our film.)
                                                            Review by Ken Burke

Take care, curious readers, for plot spoilers gallop rampantly throughout the Two Guys’ insightful reviews.  Therefore, be warned, beware, and read on when you’re ready to be transported to … wherever we end up.  Please protect your eyes from the dazzling brilliance.
            The Light Between Oceans (Derek Cianfrance)
Just after WW I an Australian ex-military-man takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on a remote island in an effort to find peace after the war’s horrors; eventually, he marries a local woman but their hopes for a family are thwarted by her 2 miscarriages when suddenly a rowboat with a dead man but a live baby washes up giving them an option of complicated hope.
What Happens: After the conclusion of WW I, Australian soldier Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) has separated from the service, looking for an opportunity to purge himself of the horrors he encountered in combat so he takes a job as the temporary lighthouse keeper on the small, isolated island of Janus Rock off Point Partageuse (fictional, but likely based on Augusta, in the southwest of Western Australia; click on the Narrative Locations of this link for more info*).  However, the previous occupant of this lonely outpost never recovers from the stress of the job, first shining the bright light in an obtrusive way at passing ships, then claiming his wife did it—even though she’d been dead for 2 years; while recovering he commits suicide so, based on his good work, Tom’s offered the job on a 3-year-contract, which he accepts.  Even though Tom seems content with his companion goats and chickens, doing needed repairs around the properly, keeping the daily log of activities, etc. he begins to heal from his wartime-wounds (mental, not physical; a low-grade, or at least taciturn, dose of what we’d now called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) so that when visiting the mainland one day he catches the eye of an attractive young woman, Isabel Graysmark (Alicia Vikander)—he’d serendipitously-passed her in town on his 1st  trip out to his new job—who’s the daughter of one of the lighthouse managers that he’s having lunch with; we see the attraction’s mutual, so following an after-dinner-stroll-and-flirtation-discussion, they’re soon actively corresponding (he gets regular deliveries of supplies and mail by boat from the town, although I have no idea who takes over his crucial duties when he’s in town periodically, in an effort to keep him from following in the tragic direction of his predecessor), which soon leads to a proposal, marriage, and Isabel adapting well to their isolated-lifestyle although she’s eager to start a family.  

*After doing some research I’ve finally found that the “two oceans” referenced in this title are the Indian and what some call the Southern, Antarctic, or Austral (basically surrounding Antarctica), but some geographers, including the National Geographic Society, don’t even recognize it as being any different from the south-most-regions of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans so that’s why you often don’t see it noted on maps or globes; however, it was a term in active use back in the 1920s with the location of the actual, similar Leeuwin Lighthouse being an important navigational spot for ships rounding this corner of the “down under”-continent as well as an inspiration for this narrative.

That’s not to be, though, as she has 2 miscarriages (the first in 1921 when she desperately tries to climb the steep stairs to the lighthouse during a heavy rainstorm but he can’t hear her knocking; in 1923 another deadly-premature-birth happens, with him now as the desperate one, trying helplessly to prevent a 2nd tragedy) each with a burial at the other end of their tiny homestead, the graves marked by simple crosses, leaving both of them quietly-devastated (although she’s still more demonstrative about it, refusing to see a doctor in order to understand any underlying physical cause, with one tense scene where she furiously thinks Tom’s brought a medic out to the island resolved in relief when she realizes the man’s simply a piano tuner hired by her husband to improve the output of the beat-up, previously-useless instrument that came with the place, providing her with another outlet for her emotional needs).  Everything changes drastically for this young couple one day, however, when Tom sees a rowboat floating toward their shore; he and Isabel rush to see if anyone’s in it, finding a baby and a dead man, leading to immediate discord as to how to respond to this surreal-situation.  He has a duty to report the discovery, not just in his daily log book but also by telegraph to the mainland so that a proper response can be made by the authorities; she wants to keep the baby, given that the townspeople know she was pregnant but have no idea of the recent miscarriage (direct contact with the shore community isn’t frequent; further, their last heartbreak occurred recently so she still has milk with which to feed this newly-arrived-infant), assuring her they can
pass the baby off as theirs.  After his bout of fierce private soul-searching, Tom goes along with the ruse as they bury the dead man, then sink the boat.  When next the delivery-team makes contact, they’re pleasantly surprised to see the new child, named Lucy (one man takes note of a little rattle the baby has, but we know that it was originally in the boat with her), spreading the news back to the eager-shoreline-community where the happy couple comes a bit later for the christening ceremony.  While waiting for the clergyman to be located, though, Tom wanders over into the churchyard where he sees a grieving young woman, then reads from a bit of a distance the gravestone near her which notes the disappearance of her husband (Frank) and baby (Grace), with Tom knowing immediately who they must be, a secret he painfully decides to keep to himself. Tom learns from the locals that the true mother is Hannah Roennfeldt (Rachel Weisz)daughter of a wealthy manwhose husband (Leon Ford; we see him a few times in better-days-flashbacks with Hannah), a German, was not accepted by the townspeople because of lingering bitterness toward his heritage due to Australians lost in the previous war so he was injured, then chased out to sea one night, taking the baby with him for her safety.  Years later, when 4-year-old-Lucy (Florence Clery) and her clandestine-parents visit the village, Tom and Isabel happen to meet Hannah, who sadly remarks that Lucy would have been about Gracie’s age; in private, Isabel tells Tom she now knows the truth also, is initially angry with him for keeping the secret, but still decides it’s best they continue their lie, both for the stability of the child and to prevent legal action against themselves.

 Tom reluctantly goes along with his wife’s needs once again but continues to be eaten up by guilt.  (When he first learned of little Gracie’s situation he left a short, anonymous note in Hannah’s mailbox assuring her that the baby was alive and well cared for; that gave her hope with the local police that they could find the missing child but to no avail, given that Tom’s so respected by the naïve 
townspeople that no one ever questioned the veracity of their story of him helping Isabel with her “delivery,” despite Tom having no medical training.)  Once he can no longer stand the ongoing lie, he secretly leaves Lucy’s baby rattle in Hannah’s mailbox, leading to a photo of it on a handbill posted around town asking for information; sure enough, one of Tom’s deliverymen, Bluey Smart (Thomas Unger), who saw it years ago out on Janus Rock when the baby first arrived comes forward, soon followed by the law rowing out to the island to arrest Tom, with heavy suspicion that he killed Frank especially after he helps them exhume the body.  At this point, both of the primary women of this story are furious with him, Hannah for having hidden her child for all these years, Isabel for betraying what she saw as a safe situation for them leading to Lucy (now Gracie again) being put with a mother she doesn’t know nor understand, so Isabel doesn’t even answer the police inquiry about Frank’s death, refusing to corroborate Tom’s story that the man was already deceased when they found him. To compound matters, Gracie (I’ll call her that, to help underscore that she’s living with Hannah) runs away, causing a community-wide-panic, until she’s found that night asleep on the seashore (seemingly with a desire to return to Janus Rock).  That
trauma leads to Hannah visiting Isabel (now living in town with her parents; I’m not clear who’s taken over the lighthouse nor does that ever come up again), offering to return the child to her if she’ll just testify against her husband so as to guarantee that he’ll never be free again (nor likely remain alive, as he’d surely be executed for the “murder’).  Isabel’s on the verge of accepting that offer when she finally reads a letter that Tom sent to her from jail awhile ago, in which he encourages her to put all of the liability on him so that her life won’t be ruined (he doesn’t know about the returned-child-custody-offer), which then brings about a heart-shift in her; she runs to the dock just as he’s about to be shipped off for trail, loudly-confessing her part in what must be called kidnapping, verifying that Tom didn’t kill Frank.  As this sordid-story quickly winds down, we jump ahead to August 1950 (with an explanation back in the mid-1920s from the local constable to Hannah that with the clemency-testimony she’s now offering on behalf of Tom and Isabel they’ll likely serve only 3 months each in prison; we also get scenes of Gracie—with the encouragement of Hannah’s father—warming to her new home) where in a very brief scene we see Isabel in dying-mode on the remote property (but not an island) where she’s likely spent the ensuing years with Tom, then she’s dead (we understand shortly thereafter) when suddenly Lucy-Grace (Caren Pistorius)—as she chose to call herself back when she accepted Hannah as her parent—comes driving up, both saying that she couldn’t make contact before now (I’m not clear why, but given the film’s approaching the 2 hr. 15 min. mark we don’t have time for further explanations) and that she wants to show Tom his new baby "grandson," after which she promises to stay in contact.

So What?  When I first saw the trailer for The Light Between Oceans I knew that my marvelous-literature-loving-wife, Nina, had read the book (M.L. Stedman [2012]—an Australian now living in England), was looking forward to seeing the cinematic adaptation, even though I had the queasy feeling that I was in for a nausea-inducing-dose of Nicholas Sparks-level-treacly-schmaltz. 
(However, I’ll admit a warm-fondness for The Notebook [published in 1996, movie adaption by Nick Cassavetes in 2004] given its combination of lusty young love and melancholy old-age with those lovers now burdened by the dementia of the woman, physical ailments of the man, all of which I could relate to in various ways regarding personal memories, parental deterioration, etc., but otherwise I’ve tended to stay far away from Sparks’ material given that The Notebook managed to draw only 52% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes while his other 10 adaptations have all gotten 32% or less [some much less], even though they’ve been quite profitable, with a total worldwide gross take of almost $900 million against total budgets of almost $300 million.)  However, I was pleasantly surprised by much of The Light …, which feels sincere in its traumatic passion, largely plausible in its accumulation of events, and ultimately heartbreaking for all of the main characters, with a sweet redemption at the very end although that final scene seems a bit manufactured to relieve the sting of what’s gone before.  The film also offers some marvelous cinematography of this barren landscape, made beautiful in its own way by the serenity of the surrounding ocean, punctuated at times with striking sunsets so that the work of screenwriter-director Cianfrance, cinematographer Adam Arkapaw, along with the stunning performances by lead actors Fassbender, Vikander, and Weisz (all of them Oscar-caliber*) combine to yield a mostly-impactful-story of emotional discord combining thought-provoking—although disturbing—ideas, punctuated with memorable—although subdued—cinematic-approaches.

*Fessbender’s been nominated for Best Supporting Actor for12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013; review in our November 14, 2013 posting) and Best Actor for Steve Jobs (Danny Boyle, 2015; review in our October 30, 2015 posting); Vikander won as Best Supporting Actress for The Danish Girl (Tom Hooper, 2015; review in our January 11, 2016 posting); Weisz won as Best Supporting Actress for The Constant Gardener (Fernando Meirelles, 2005), surely not the last of their honors.

 As for the ideas, one is that the lighthouse is not only an observation point between 2 mighty bodies of water but its location—on Janus Rock—implies the opportunity for Tom and Isabel to be like the dual-faced-Roman-god Janus (who was always aware of what had come before as well as what was about to happen, which made him the perfect inspiration for the month of January, seeing out the previous seasons of summer and autumn as the solstice [toward the end of December] brings the official start of winter [in the northern hemisphere, with all of that symbology reversed for the southern continent in which this story takes place] with its bitter cold finally thawing into the renewing spring [when the Western world finally fully switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar from about 1582, January 1 even became the official start of the measured year in addition to this crucial seasonal shift]), reflecting on how their lives had evolved separately prior to their chance meeting, then looking together toward a shared future, even though the events on Janus Rock at times send them into opposite directions as they clash in ways even more powerful than the roughest sea waves that batter their rocky shore.  As those intra-marriage-problems occur, Cianfrance treats us to intense closeups of their determined, damaged faces, emblematic of the stormy passions that rage inside of controlled demeanors where frowns, tense lips, and teary-eyes barely convey all of the turmoil that each of them feels over the fate of baby Lucy.  There’s also an effective scene at the baby's christening as the pastor’s address emphasizes how this new member of God’s earthly family is expected, as they all are, to keep the Creator’s commandments (which Tom knows that he’s not doing, for Isabel’s benefit) crosscut with images of suffering Hannah, with this contrast of intention and result reminiscent of the staggering-intercut-scenes toward the end of The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972) where new-Don-Michael Corleone takes revenge on now-departed-father-Vito’s enemies by having the other heads of NYC’s Mafia families (along with Las Vegas kingpin Moe Greene) executed in one fell swoop, even as Michael serves as godfather for his nephew, ritually (hypocritically) answering the priest’s questions at this wee baby’s baptism.

 You might find the brutal murders shown in The Godfather clip to be too intense, too physically violent to be compared to what amounts to inner-turmoil-torture in The Light Between Oceans, but I think you'll find in that latter baptismal scene Tom and Hannah, separately, are also suffering in a manner which is just as intensely felt as with the victims of the Corleone hitmen, but rather than bleeding to death in a quick hail of bullets (so precisely aimed in that the rival Don shot in bed with his hooker is blown away while she’s right beside him but seemingly doesn’t even get a scratch) this troubled-foster-father and distraught-birth-mother live on to continue their agony in an ongoing, mostly quiet manner that will continue to haunt each of them for a few more years until the truth about Lucy/Grace is finally revealed, with Hannah knowing just enough due to Tom’s anonymous letter for her to grieve even more than she might have if convinced that her daughter were dead but she’s now caught in the horrible limbo of awareness of the child’s survival yet with no ability to retrieve her from what she understands as Gracie’s abductors (you might even want to consider whether this kind of long-term-suffering is even worse than execution in that the pain lingers on for years rather than simply 
being over, the arguments that continue in our world between proponents of the death penalty and those who advocate a life sentence without parole as to which option carries the greater punishment).  If you’d like to see a scene from The Light … that well-illustrates the agonizing, controlled-fury that haunts all of this film’s main characters, here's one (complete with an ad, of course) narrated by director Cianfrance with Isabel on the hillside where her unborn-children are buried suddenly pulled out of her misery by Tom’s sighting of the rowboat drifting toward their island, as he talks of the intimacy that binds these characters together when they both rush toward the rowboat, with the very-jerky-handheld-camera behind Isabel authentically documenting her frenzied feelings as she sees Tom lift a baby out of this unaccounted-for-boat.  (Note that this scene also allows you to see the actual widescreen-format of this film whereas I’ve reformatted The Light…’s publicity-stills—just as I do with most every photo that I use in these postings—into a more-squarish-format to better fit them into the layout-flow of my various paragraphs' texts.*)  

 *At this above link you can also get another of these director-narrated-scene-analyses, of the 1st bank-robbery in the fabulous Hell or High Water (David Mackenzie; review in our August 26, 2016 posting) that could have accompanied my earlier review of that film but I’ve just discovered this site so I’ll pass it on now in yet another attempt to encourage viewership of what I consider to be one of the best films of 2016 (it would be nice if I could more fully support Nina’s embrace of The Light Between Oceans with a statement like that, but I just can’t quite do it, for reasons noted below).

Bottom Line 
Final Comments: Despite the book this story’s based on being apparently quite popular 
(With Nina’s superb recommendation, how could it be anything else?)—even more so now with the release of the film—it’s not made much of an impact yet at the box-office, where during its entire Labor Day weekend debut it grossed only a little over $6 million in domestic theaters (in the U.S. and Canada, which doesn’t truly equate—as some of the cinema-industry-reporters say—to the “North American market,” in that there’s still a good bit of the continent south of everything from San Ysidro in California to Brownsville in Texas, even if a certain Presidential candidate still wants to build a wall along that entire border), all 1,500 of them in which Disney’s Touchstone distribution arm has placed this DreamWorks-produced-offering as counterprogramming to more-successful-but-less-humane-fare such as the psychological-horror Don’t Breathe (Fede Alvarez; it’s taken in about $55 million after 2 weeks vs. a mere $9.9 million budget [The Light …’s budget is $20 million—although a bargain considering the star-power of its primary actors]) or the supervillain fantasy Suicide Squad (David Ayer) with a take of just over $300 million (vs. its much-heftier-$175 million budget, with huge distribution costs also to be considered for any movie) after 5 weeks in release, although if you’re interested in some cinematic-economics-speculation you could read this New York Times Brooks Barnes article on overall-declining-movie-theater-attendance, plus some speculation on why this is occurring, with The Light Between Oceans noted toward the end of his analysis as yet another summer 2016 flop (but not nearly as bad as the blown-out-wheels-chariot that’s the failed remake of Ben-Hur [Timur Bekmambetov; review in our August 26, 2016 posting]). Critical consensus toward The Light … hasn’t helped either, with the Rotten Tomatoes collection of positive reviews at 60%, Metacritic just barely ahead (for a change) with 61%, making my 3½ of 5 stars positively laudatory (70% numerically but conceptually a bit higher, given that I rarely go above 4 stars; however, I was equally generous with Ben-Hur as my 3 stars soared above RT’s 30%, MC’s 37%).

 So, even though I generally have good responses to what happens in The Light Between Oceans (possibly influenced by my personal connections to stories about birth and adoptive mothers [even though Isabel’s not legally in that role but she still functions as such], being, myself, the illegitimate result of decisions by my almost-unknown-birth-mother close to 70 years ago, although I’ve never been able to make any contact [her choice, not mine] unlike the difficult situation for Lucy-Grace who found herself in a no-child’s-land-situation when taken away from the only mother she’d known for a few years, then having to adapt herself to the other one despite her fierce initial resistance), I do have to honestly fault it (sorry, darling Nina) for too quick of an emotional-rescue toward the narrative’s end in regard to the following aspects: (1) Lucy-Grace’s abrupt shift in willingness to be with her new family, especially after having just run away in hopes of somehow finding Tom and Isabel again; I admit I know nothing about 4-year-olds but this sudden willingness on her part to open up to these virtual strangers seems too much of a
plot convenience for a film that’s approaching its running-time-limits but needs to leave us feeling comfortable that this little child will be secure even as the only parents she’s ever known will disappear into prison, then leave her life entirely until she will seek them out again as she grows into her late 20s (Nina’s memory of the book is that it takes longer than this for little Gracie to accept her altered-circumstances, even as she retains a little of her Lucy-identity, but this is where books can almost always triumph over cinema in having the unlimited-space required to more fully develop their established, complex plotlines rather than having to adhere to the exhibition demands of the projection-based-marketplace); (2) Hannah’s equally-fluid-shifts in attitude toward the Sherbournes, seemingly-dependent on Lucy-Grace’s position in this inter-familial-clustering, being ready to remand her child back to Isabel when it seems the kid’s unwilling to accept the drastic changes, then agreeing to help lighten their prison sentences once Lucy-Grace is more securely within Hannah’s orbit; again, this may have been worked out with more fluidity in the novel but on screen it seems like Hannah’s decisions are just tossed around in emotional waves less predictable than those that crash against Janus Rock.

 Therefore, in choosing my standard-review-conclusion of a Musical Metaphor to further speak in another voice to what I’ve encountered in this film, I’m drawn to a couple of tunes that express my authentic deep feelings of sorrow for all of the pain that these characters endure in the course of their lives together along with a less-sincere-response that’s more in keeping with how this carefully-structured-dramatic-story turns melodramatic as it rushes toward a running-time-imposed-necessary-conclusion. Thus, my choice for the serious commentary about this intense film is the equally-powerful “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”* (written by Cynthia Weil, Barry Mann, and Phil Spector, first recorded by the Righteous Brothers in 1964*) at com/watch?v=uOnYY9Mw2Fg, as its swelling/receding-structure emulates both the ocean waves that surround the location of this story and the emotional waves of loss and regret that Tom, Isabel, and Hannah (along with Lucy-Grace when she’s first taken away from the only parents in her life) must endure, as this song speaks majestically to the heartaches of longing when deep love is ended (by the crimes that haunt all aspects of this film) or kept in abeyance by forces stronger than a person can endure so all of them at some point can sorrowfully say that “there’s no welcome look in your eyes when I reach for you.”  However, I also feel a bit cynical in regard to how the story’s events are bounced around all over the map at the end like an emotional tennis match in order to push our sympathy buttons so I’ll conclude with a bit of a sarcastic intention in further offering you “Baby Come Back” (maybe sung as a dueling duet by Isabel and Hannah) at com/watch?v=Hn-enjcgV1o (from the 1977 Player album by the group of the same name**) where they can each wail “you can blame it all on me I was wrong and I just can’t live without you.”

*Their version is backed by the famous LA studio musicians, the Wrecking Crew (see our review of the documentary about them, also called The Wrecking Crew [Denny Tedesco, 2014] in our April 2, 2015 posting), a song that achieved #1 status for 2 weeks, February 6-13 1965 and can be found on the Brothers’ album You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' (in December 1999, Broadcast Music, Inc. [BMI]—one of the chief licensing agencies for recording royalties—ranked it as the most-played-song on American radio and TV in the 20th century, with more than 8 million airplays by 1999 [up to 15 million by 2011]).  What actively brought it to mind for me, though, was seeing it performed last weekend in San Francisco by a touring company of Beautiful: The Carol King Musical (began in SF, September 2013, moved to Broadway, January 2014) which focuses on some of the life of Carol King and her ex-husband/songwriting-partner, Gerry Goffin (through the successful release of her 1971 Tapestry album [with its diamond-certification of over 10 million copies sold in the U.S., 25 million worldwide, on the Billboard charts for 313 weeks, won 4 Grammy Awards—for Album of the Year, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, Song of the Year {“You’ve Got a Friend”}, Record of the Year {“It’s Too Late”}]) but also highlights their long friendly-competition with Weil and Mann.

**This song lasted for 3 weeks at #1 on the Billboard pop chart from January 14-28, 1978, sandwiched by the Bee Gees with “How Deep Is Your Love” before, then “Stayin’ Alive” after.

 Hopefully, you can live without me for another week, during which time you might consider going to see The Light Between Oceans (which, beyond its literal-lighthouse-meaning could also refer to Isabel in her early relationship with Tom, functioning as a bright refuge from the unshown-wartime-horror in his past and a respite before the depth of loss that he’ll have to endure when he follows his desperate wife’s desires to keep baby Lucy for themselves when their own family plans are denied by biological fate, or it could even be about little Lucy as the light that shone some hope into the lives of this loving, decent
-but-progeny-denied-couple who rescued their challenged marriage for a few brief years before another dark ocean of guilt almost consumed them), especially if you’re looking for an alternative to all of the noise coming from down the hall at your local cineplex where the last frantic vestiges of summer escapism are playing out before the weightier-Oscar-hopefuls start vying for your constant attention (which, I'm sad to report—as Nina gives me the death stare that she learned from our very unique cat, Bella, the furry-princess—won’t include The Light Between Oceans, pulled beneath the roiling-surface of its own impactful-intentions by its rushed-wrap-up [where plausibility begins to deteriorate]).  But if such material as presented in ... Between Oceans is too downbeat for you, here’s my final attempt to cheer you up with a couple of quick ditties, a foundational version of Archie Campbell’s "You Was Gone" from the decades-ago-CBS (1969-1971)-then-syndicated (1971-1992)-TV show, Hee-Haw at, followed by a brief banjo-accompanied-poem from Mason Williams (on his 1969 The Listening Matter album), "Them Hors D'Oeuvers" (more like this can be found if you do a YouTube search for Mason Williams Them Poems).  Y’all come back now!
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
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*We’re sorry to say that a Google software glitch causes every Two Guys in the Dark posting prior to August 26, 2016 to have an inaccurate (dead) link to the Summary page, but there are too many of them to go back and fix them all.  From 8/26/16 on this link is accurate, with hopefully not too much confusion caused by this latest stupid snafu from the Alphabet overlords’ programming problems.

Here’s more information about The Light Between Oceans:

There’s not too much else to be found in video offerings about The Light Between Oceans so here’s a short interview (5:32) with actors Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander at com/watch?v=_zNddcZV1EU (there’s a longer interview [16:58] with them and director Derek Cianfrance at but it rambles a lot with very low audio so you really have to work to get much out of this video compared to the shorter one) and a slightly-longer “behind the scenes” collection-of-short-shots-clip (9:27) at com/watch?v=plrYM53-r-c (at this end of this video is a brief countdown of the top 10 dramas of all time based on reviews at Rotten Tomatoes—I certainly won’t disagree with their choice for #1).

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If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my new email at  Thanks.

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile. Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.


  1. This is a worthwhile film for all the reasons Ken stated and especially for the superb acting and beautiful photography. I think there could be some award nominations for this film. I tend to disagree the story was lessened by the clearly soapy wrap up; instead I think it was weakened by the contrived plot device of Tom leaving notes and keepsakes for the birth mother after burying the father and fabricating explanations to keep the baby. Of course a large portion of the drama would be eliminated without those illogical plot devices so in the end, it is what it is; an effective adult drama which is always welcome.

  2. Hi rj, Thanks as always for your feedback. Regarding Tom's actions, it's true that the guilt doesn't start to overtake him until it's well past time for that sort of inner-truth to be addressed--maybe this is informed by Crime and Punishment but not as effectively done (but, again, based only on the film; the original novel may be more nuanced in how this is all handled). However, you're right that we need these complications to keep from just having a happy-family-story that would only have a bit of depth with the miscarriages scenes. At least the overall impact does deliver "an effective adult drama," which I totally agree "is always welcome." Ken