Archetypes: Film: Review: ‘The Homesman’ (2014)

Roadside Attractions

Roadside Attractions

Despite the title, The Homesman is a film that richly explores the Feminine and provides a heartbreaking contrast between the Venusian archetype of seduction and beauty and the Lunar archetype of nurturing, caring and mothering.

Directed by Tommy Lee Jones, the movie is set around 1850, as hardy folk from the East migrated westward. Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank), is a practical and religious woman who’s done well for herself financially in her new terrain. Her no-nonsense demeanor and plain presentation, however, has severely diminished her Venusian appeal and relegated her to spinsterhood. An early scene, in which she all but tries to make a marriage deal with a guest, using canned peaches as a bribe, is heartbreaking.

When the men in her town are unable to transport three women to a settlement in Iowa to be taken back East – the ladies (Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter) have literally lost their minds in the new pioneering environment because of their children’s deaths or spousal abuse – Mary Bee opts to drive the wagon through the Nebraska territories to deliver the trio to a midwest destination. Her male overseer on the journey is an army deserter George Briggs (Tommie Lee Jones), whom Mary Lee characterizes as “a man of low character” but whom she bribes to be her guide for $300 to be delivered at the end of the journey.

On the one hand, The Homesman is about the contrast between Mary Bee’s and George’s approaches to life. On the other, it’s an unfolding of the gradual opening up of the three psychologically damaged women – they initially howl like animals in the paddy wagon they’re housed in – because of the mothering administrations of Mary Bee. As much as they’re able, the ladies begin to look out and care for each other.

A local minister, hotel owner, criminal and minister’s wife (John Lithgow, James Spader, Tim Blake Nelson and Meryl Streep, respectively) figure in the action. But the movie’s draw is the riveting battle between Moon and Venus. For Mary Bee, mothering feels like the right thing to do, but her heart yearns for the Venusian affection she believes marriage can bring. However, as the movie suggests, marriage – in the wrong environment and with the wrong man – can kill the soul. So can mistaking a man’s Lunar caring for something else.

The Homesman is a hard-edged look at two aspects of the Feminine that need balancing and vigilance, even in 21st-century psychological frontiers.

Archetype: Lover. Mother. Caretaker. Nurturer. Beauty. The Feminine.

Astrology Archetype: ☽ ♀ (Moon, Venus)

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