Grace and Redemption in The Homesman

Like some books, some films change us forever.

The Homesman changed me. It is desolate, yet strangely beautiful.

The plot concerns the transportation of three mentally disturbed women back across the unsettled Western territories of the United States. It gives another side of how the west was won that is rarely depicted by Hollywood.

One of the three women is just 19 years old. It is never said how old she was when she and her equally young husband left family and friends to make a life for themselves out west. But, one gets the idea that she might have only been 14 years old. When we are introduced to Arabella, she has already lost 3 young children to diphtheria.

To deal with her pain, Arabella begins to care for a doll, rather husband and surviving children.

You see, the doll will never cry. It always smiles. And, it will never die. Crazy? Yes. But, understandable.

Yet, Arabella seems less than human. She doesn’t speak. She doesn’t acknowledge anyone. And at the beginning of the film, she can’t even go to the bathroom on her own.  She is nearly catatonic.

Change comes when Hillary Swank’s character Cuddy pours Arabella a glass of water. She helps her drink, and then pours some water into a thimble and offers it to the doll.

For the first time, Arabella turns and allows someone else to see into her eyes. Pain can close the heart. But love–it does conquer all.

After the long journey to Hebron, Iowa, fraught with rejection, betrayal, and abandonment, Tommy Lee Jones’ brings the three women to the home of the pastor and his wife.

The names of the two mules that pulled the women’s wagon through to the end?

Grace and Redemption.

What else could?