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HomesmanThe Homesman is a 2014 American period drama film set in the 1850s, directed by Tommy Lee Jones and co-written with Kieran Fitzgerald and Wesley Oliver, based on the 1988 novel of same name by Glendon Swarthout.


The film stars Tommy Lee Jones and Hilary Swank and also features an ensemble cast that includes Meryl Streep, Hailee Steinfeld, John Lithgow and James Spader.

The film was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or in the main competition section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. The film was limited-released in the United States on November 14, 2014 and premiered in the UK at the Cambridge Film Festival. The Homesman has received positive to mixed reviews from critics.

Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) is a middle-aged spinster from New York, a former teacher who journeyed to the midwest for more opportunity. She is an active member of the small farming community she now calls home in Nebraska, and has significant financial prospects and sizeable land ownership. Though seemingly strong and independent, inside she is suffering from depression from isolation, and after being rejected by potential husbands for being too 'plain'. She proposes to a man named Bob Giffen and sings to him on her makeshift piano, and he turns her down.

After a harsh winter, three young women - Arabella Sours, Theoline Belknapp and Gro Svendsen - begin to show signs of insanity due to the hardships they faced. One lost her children to diphtheria, one killed her own child, and one was raped and suffers a breakdown after her mother dies. Reverend Dowd (John Lithgow) calls upon one of their husbands to escort the women eastward to a church in Iowa that cares for the mentally ill. Unsatisfied with any of the mens potential, Mary Bee volunteers for the task alone because she is unhappy with her life and wants an adventure, and Dowd reluctantly agrees. Mary Bee also feels strongly for the care of these women, knowing that she herself is battling mental health issues.

After loading the women into a wagon, Cuddy sets out for Iowa, and before she leaves she encounters George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones), a claim jumper, who has been lynched for using another man's land as his own. Snivelling and begging to be helped, Briggs appeals to Cuddy for help. She frees him in return for his help escorting the women. He immediately casts doubt on the job and tells her that he considers himself free to leave at any time. In spite of this however, he remains with her as they make the journey. Briggs' experience comes in handy when fending off hostile Indians and when one of the women wanders off and is taken in by a wandering man. However, when they discover a desecrated grave of an 11-year old girl, Cuddy wants to stop and restore the grave, while Briggs vows to push on. Cuddy agrees to catch up with him, and after restoring the grave sets out on horseback. Riding all night, she eventually wakes and discovers that her horse has returned her to the grave.

Finally catching up to Briggs, Cuddy tells him that they make a great team and suggests that they marry. Briggs, like all the previous men, rejects Cuddy on the grounds of her looks, but when a naked Cuddy propositions him later that night, he agrees and the two have sex. The next morning, Briggs is devastated to find that Cuddy has committed suicide from her worsening depression from being emasculated in a way by Briggs, and then rejected by him. Her religious beliefs go against sleeping with a man before marriage. He buries her body and lashes out in anger at Sours, Belknapp and Svendsen. He takes a horse and leaves the three women behind to their own devices, but when the trio follow him on foot, almost drowning in the river crossing, he returns and pledges to care for them until Iowa.

Briggs seeks food and shelter at a hotel belonging to Aloysius Duffy (James Spader), who informs him that they have no reservations for him despite the hotel being completely abandoned. Angry and bitter after all his hardship, Briggs lashes out at Duffy, whose men force him to leave at gunpoint. Briggs seemingly leaves, and then doubles back on horseback, stealing Duffy's roast pig dinner and shooting Duffy in the foot when he comes downstairs. He then burns the hotel to the ground, killing Duffy and his men in the process.

Briggs finally reaches Iowa, passing the women into the care of Altha Carter (Meryl Streep), the wife of a church reverend. He informs her of Cuddy's death but does not disclose the true cause. He then suggests marriage to young Tabitha Hutchinson (Hailee Steinfeld) after feeling guilty about not taking Mary Bee's proposal, but then decides against it and leaves the young girl be. Instead, he makes a headstone for Cuddy's grave and boards a barge as he departs. He meets a group of musicians and begins taunting the men on the far bank as he drunkenly dances and fires his weapons, and as the barge departs, one of the workers kicks Mary Bees' headstone into the river.

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