The Field

  • 1990
  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • Drama

Bull McCabe (Richard Harris) is a man of the land, a farmer whose reverence for nature far exceeds his tolerance for human frailty. McCabe and his wife Maggie (Brenda Fricker) haven't spoken for 18 years, their relationship poisoned by the suicide of their 13-year-old son. McCabe's friend Bird O'Donnell (John Hurt) is in awe of his strength, and his surviving...read more

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Bull McCabe (Richard Harris) is a man of the land, a farmer whose reverence for nature far exceeds his tolerance for human frailty. McCabe and his wife Maggie (Brenda Fricker) haven't spoken for 18 years, their relationship poisoned by the suicide of their 13-year-old son. McCabe's

friend Bird O'Donnell (John Hurt) is in awe of his strength, and his surviving son, Tadgh (Sean Bean), lives in sullen fear of his father's disapproval. The remote Irish village where McCabe holds sway has scarcely changed over the centuries; even the local priest, Father Doran (Sean McGinley),

concedes that the veneer of Christianity--let alone respect for the laws of men, especially outsiders--is thin. But change threatens the community in the form of a field McCabe has worked for years. Its lush fertility, the product of his labor, stands in stark contrast to the harshness of the

surrounding landscape. The owner, a widow (Frances Tomelty) whom the community has never accepted, decides to sell the field and return to her own people. McCabe is the natural buyer until the arrival of Peter (Tom Berenger), a wealthy American. Peter's plans for the field are commercial. He wants

to pave it over and provide access to the limestone-rich hills beyond, and he has far more money than McCabe could ever hope to scrape together.

McCabe's world begins to crumble. Tadgh falls in love with Katie (Jenny Conroy), a gypsy girl whom McCabe despises because he feels gypsies are rootless and alienated from the land. Peter wins Father Doran's support for his plans by pointing out the economic benefits it will have for the

community, only confirming McCabe's contempt for the clergy ("No priest died during the potato famine," he spits). Finally, McCabe and his son follow Peter to a deserted lake area and hope to frighten him so badly he will return to America. Things get out of hand and Peter is killed, father and

son sinking the body in the lake. The way is now clear for McCabe to buy the field, which he does, but he takes no pleasure in his victory as it soon leads to more violence and tragedy.

THE FIELD was director Jim Sheridan's much-anticipated follow-up to his surprisingly successful MY LEFT FOOT, and, as that film did, it focusses on the strength of human will in the face of overwhelming adversity. But while MY LEFT FOOT was ferociously personal, chronicling one man's valiant

efforts to live a full life despite his crippled body, THE FIELD is heavily allegorical. Bull McCabe is a modern-day Antaeus, a man whose strength comes from the earth; he and his friend Bird, who shares his complicity with nature, don't even go by human names. Peter (who's listed in the credits

simply as "The American") embodies the decadence of urban living. From his shiny black car to his camel hair coat, there's not a thing about him that blends into the landscape. The point is articulated early and often: the land and those who live in harmony with it are good; everyone else is

corrupt, unnatural, and just plain evil. While it's often oppressively heavy-handed, the film is exceptionally well-photographed. Ireland's terrible beauty--simultaneously harsh and verdant--isn't sentimentalized. The performance by Harris earned him an Oscar nomination, and it certainly is a real

scene-stealer, though if he isn't over the top, he's quite close to it. Ray McAnally, who played the father in MY LEFT FOOT (opposite Brenda Fricker who won a Best Supporting Actress for her performance in that film) was being considered for the role of Bull McCabe at the time of his death in

1989. It's also worth noting that in a year of unpleasant dental appliances, John Hurt's easily matches the one worn by Willem Dafoe in WILD AT HEART. (Violence.)

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  • Released: 1990
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: Bull McCabe (Richard Harris) is a man of the land, a farmer whose reverence for nature far exceeds his tolerance for human frailty. McCabe and his wife Maggie (Brenda Fricker) haven't spoken for 18 years, their relationship poisoned by the suicide of their… (more)

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