In the middle of the depression, Edna (Sally Field) and her family seem to be one of the few lucky people in a small Texas town still living comfortably on a steady income, until her husband is accidentally killed by a drunk black man. Suddenly, after years of only doing housework and raising kids, Edna must find a way to provide for her two small children and keep the bank from buying the house. When a wandering black man, Moze (Danny Glover), who can do nothing but beg for work and food in the racist south, suggests that he help Edna turn her land into a cotton farm. Seeing no other option that can keep her and the kids together, she becomes the face and Moze the know-how to running a cotton farm. Along the way, Mr. Denby (Lane Smith) from the bank does, what he calls the Christian thing, and gives her his blind brother-in-law, Will (John Malkovich), as a paying tenant in her house. Edna, Moze and Will become like family through hardships and tragedies to make the cotton farm a success.
One of the first obstacles that Edna and her gang face is a destructive tornado. These scenes can be heart pounding and suspenseful for even the most seasoned storm chaser in tornado alley. Between the daughter, Possum (Gennie James) playing alone in an upstairs room where a tree blows the wall in, and the son, Frank (Yankton Hatten), running from school across town with the tornado quickly approaching, we’re scared to think of the fate of Edna’s family. Thankfully, both Will and Moze have formed an attachment to the kids enough to help ensure their safety, even by putting their own in danger. The images of the aftermath of the storm are haunting and devastating, for me, they only echo the recent events in Alabama in Missouri.
Basically, the film is a sum of all my worst fears. Becoming a widow with young kids and no work experience outside the home to make an income off of sounds like one of the worst predicaments I can imagine. Of course, the time period set in the midst of the depression is just a double whammy. And then the tornadoes seems like extra icing on the already decked out cake.
Even with all these fears helping me sympathize and identify with Edna and her lovable outcast gang, I didn’t find Places in the Heart to be anything of extra special significance. I have no real complaints about the film, the acting was great all around and the story kept me intrigued from beginning to end. Yet, there was just some spark of greatness that I’ve come to expect from most of these Best Picture nominees. It’s always a little disappointing when just that one last element is missing.
“Peace of God.”