The subject of grief is tellingly addressed in the spare drama, HORTON FOOTE'S ALONE, which touches viewers, thanks to that bastion of seamless acting, Hume Cronyn. If other aspects of ALONE don't approach Cronyn's level, the film deserves kudos for showing how the tapestry of an entire
family can unravel with the removal of a single member. The film, which was produced by Showtime, made its home video debut in 1998.
Widowed farmer John Webb (Hume Cronyn) has been depressed since the death of Bessie, his wife of 30 years. He musters the energy to keep his yearly harvest going without the help of daughters Jaclyn (Joanna Miles) and Grace Ann (Roxanne Hart), who have made urban-centric lives for their own
families in Houston. Now, Webb learns that his overseer and best friend Grey (James Earl Jones) has been pressured to move in with his children in Houston.
Isolated on his farm, stoic Webb is lonely until he is visited by his nephews, Carl (Frederic Forrest) and Gus Jr. (Chris Cooper). The two inherited 50 percent of the mineral rights to Webb's land from their father, and have been promised big money from an oil company if they can get Webb to agree
to sell his share. At the same time, Webb's financially strapped daughter Jaclyn moves back home with her husband Paul (David Selby). Webb gives Paul a job, but Paul is unsuited to farm life. Jaclyn's family returns to Houston, and Gus Jr. and Carl leave when Webb's land fails to produce the oil
gusher they had anticipated. Readjusting to loneliness, Webb welcomes the return of Grey. In his company and that of Bessie's former housekeeper Lois (Starletta Dupois), Webb shares memories of Bessie that begin as a comfort but end up a reminder of devastating loss.
If you've seen one Horton Foote teleplay about his embattled Texas clan, you've seen them all. Usually, the protagonist is a solitary widower or widow beset on all sides by ungrateful kin-folk. Foote always concentrates his considerable craft on the heroic central figure, while fashioning the
dragon offspring as caricatures. Because the basic domestic crises enveloping that hero ring true, ALONE impresses viewers with gentle reflections on the inescapable solitude of the elderly. In the leading role, Hume Cronyn masterfully unveils his portrait of a decent man, whose well-intentioned
daughters can't fit him into their distant lives. He is ably supported by James Earl Jones and Starletta Dupois. Although the rest of the talented cast offers stereotypical renderings of selfishness, Cronyn manages to massage the film's episodic confrontations into potent drama. As he sings a few
bars of his wife's favorite hymn at the fade-out, Cronyn breaks the audience's heart. (Profanity, adult situations.)
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