Places in the Heart 1984

Robert Benton
Cinematographer: Nestor Almendros (Days of Heaven)

Main Characters/Players:
Edna Spalding: Sally Field
Mr. Will: John Malkovitch
Moze: Danny Glover
Wayne Lomax: Ed Harris
Sheriff Royce Spalding
Margaret Lomax (sister of Edna)
Viola Kelsey
Bud Kelsey

Setting: Waxahachie, Texas, 1935

Plot Summary:

As the movie opens, we hear the famous hymn "Blessed Assurance" being sung by churchgoers on a Sunday morning, and we see families sitting down to a Sunday dinner. The Spalding family dinner is interrupted by an emergency: a young black man is drunk and standing dowm by the railroad tracks, shooting a gun randomly into the air. Sheriff Spalding is called to restrain him. Although the young man is perfectly friendly, he is quite drunk, and accidently shoots the sheriff, killing him. Now Mrs. Spalding--Edna--is a young widow with a mortgaged house to pay for and two small children to raise by herself.

Through the intervention of a bank officer, Mr. Denby, Edna gets a boarder, the blind Mr. Will, And partly through her own generosity (and partly through her need), she hires a farm laborer, Moze. Now the children, Frank and Possum, and the adults, Edna, Mr. Will, and Moze, become a new family. They grow together as Frank is punished for smoking at school, as a tornado rips through the town, and as they struggle to win the first prize for being the first farm to deliver their cotton crops to the local cotton gin.

We see as well the lives of the community around them: the sorrow of the black family who buries Wiley after the white men kill him; the shaky marriage of Edna's sister Margaret ; and the dances where the community meets to gossip and enjoy the evening. These images are woven together to create a tapestry of Depression-era Texas: the styles, colors, and sounds of the 1930's; and the loves, hatreds and fears of small-town America.

Having won the hundred dollar prize for being the first crop to be harvested, and having been able to make the first payment to the bank, mostly through the efforts and skill of Moze, Mrs. Spalding begins to plan with Moze what they will do next year. But the KKK visits to terrorize Moze and to discourage him from being too successful. Moze leaves to protect himself.

The film closes where it began, in the church, with the community--good and bad, living and dead--listening together to a sermon on love (I Corinthians 13) and taking part in holy communion.