ONE: CLOSE QUARTERS FOR TWO GENERATIONS
1. Credits sequence—with strains of the old hymn: “Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling—calling all sinners, ‘Come home!’” As the credits continue, we see parallel editing of two shots: a boy running through a field of bluebonnets, and then a young woman, his mother, running after him. That editing track resolves with a shot of the mother catching the son, holding him in her arms, and then walking away with him. That shot dissolves to a close shot of old Carrie Watts, rocking in her chair. She lives with her son and daughter-in-law. She is humming the same song we heard earlier. Her son Ludie gets up. They talk quietly about his job, about his prospects for a raise. She talks about not being able to sleep when the moon is full—just like those days back in the town of Bountiful, when she worked in the fields. The lighting here is intimate—with warm colors as they converse. She recalls a time when he was a boy and she got him up and dressed in a full moon and took him for a walk. But he doesn’t remember. She recalls that he wanted to know about dying. She held him close to her, and she told him, “You’re too young to worry about things like that.” He does not seem to warm to this conversation. He changes the topic. He remembers a song she used to sing when he was a boy. He would always laugh when she sang it. Finally she remembers and begins to act it out and sing it: “Hush little baby, don’t say a word. Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird!” He smiles at the memory. She sits next to him. Suddenly she says, “Oh, Ludie!” but then she cuts herself off . Why?
2. Now Ludie's wife is up, and she comes out of the bedroom and turns on the light (and changes the lighting scheme!). She refers to her husband as Ludie. Carrie is in the kitchen making some hot milk. She chastises him for not getting his sleep—because it may affect his work. Note that Carrie reacts as if watching the daughter-in-law closely (because of their rivalry?). Jessie Mae turns on the radio, sits, and smokes.
3. As soon as Carrie enters the room, Jessie Mae begins to complain that Carrie forgot about a recipe she asked for in the morning. Is the old woman forgetful? Or senile? Carrie holds her ground, and the two women glare at each—as if they are enemies. Now Jessie Mae begins to pester Ludie, saying they should get out more now that he’s working again. Meanwhile, Carrie is in the kitchen and looking for that recipe. Now Jessie Mae begins to talk almost nonstop about the healing of a rift between an old friend, Rosella, and her. She makes it clear that “people have to take me as I am or just leave me alone.” (Sounds like an ultimatum.) Notice that this “conversation” (actually, Ludie seems more interested in a book) is parallel cut as if to underscore the separation between the two characters. Carrie, the third party, enters to the room and Jessie Mae makes sure to criticize her for moving too fast: “Walk, don’t run.” Carrie tries to be a good girl around Jessie Mae. Carrie is still looking for that recipe. Finally, Jessie Mae comes over to her husband, and they are in the same frame. She touches him warmly, but she continues her monologue. Meanwhile, Carrie has found the recipe in Jessie Mae’s bedroom drawer! Vindicated! So Carrie comes in and delivers the recipe. Of course, when she tells Jessie Mae where she finds it, Jessie Mae shifts to the attack. “How many times have I told her. . .” and you know the rest. We see the two women in Jessie Mae’s POV shot, and she berates Carrie for being a bad girl! Frustrated, Carrie tears the recipe out of Jessie Mae’s hand and flings it to eh carpet. “Pick it up!” Jessie Mae orders. Another standoff! Now they are parallel cut: as the conflict builds. Of course, L has to step into this argument and try to put a stop to it. Carrie lies on t he sofa and pulls an afghan over her head. Jessie Mae wants justice! But Jessie Mae confronts her at the sofa and orders her, “This is my house, and you will do exactly as you’re told! Carrie cries under the blanket. Now Jessie Mae shifts her tactics. Now she blames Carrie for upsetting her son! Now the people who live on the first floor yell up at the Watts’ and tell them to shut off that darn radio. (After all, it is 1:30 a.m.) That gives Jessie Mae another enemy to confront. She jumps on the floor and screams at them. Then she turns on Carrie and yells, “You’re going too far with me one of these days old lady!” Carrie watches her fearfully and yet defiantly from the sofa. More reaction shots of Carrie on the sofa. She is in tears. Finally, here comes Ludie out of the bedroom. She gets up and beats him to recipe on the floor, picks it up, and hands it to him. Fight over. Then, ever the peacemaker, he asks her to give the recipe to Jessie Mae. So Mama marches into the bedroom, and we watch her, from Ludie’s POV, as his mother gives in and apologizes and hands the recipe to her daughter-in-law. Then the peacemaker forges ahead, enters the lion’s dean, and tries to tell his wife to not get so upset with his mother. But Jessie Mae is unrepentant. When she says, “She does things just to aggravate me,” we see Carrie’s reaction shot in the other room. She cries. Back in the bedroom, Jessie Mae continues complaining.
4. Jessie Mae continues her diatribe. She is afraid the old woman will run off to “that town of hers” ( Bountiful). “She promised us she wouldn’t.” Back to a reaction shot of Carrie as we hear Jessie Mae say, “Sometimes I think she hides that check.” As she says this, we see Carrie reach down and pick up that check she had hidden under the rug.” Back in the bedroom, Ludie sits on the edge of the bed and the two look across at each other. Jessie Mae launches into another reference to her old friend Rosella. She refers to their upcoming 15 th wedding anniversary. Reaction shot of Carrie walking around in the living room as Jessie Mae recalls the night she told Rosella that Ludie had proposed to her. Back to the bedroom: “I thought you were the handsomest man alive.” Ludie’s reaction: “And I thought you were the prettiest girl.” Suddenly he launches into his big concern. Should he ask for a raise? Back to the living room. Carrie puts the check inside her robe as we hear Ludie say that he is going to ask for that raise tomorrow. Back to the bedroom. Jessie Mae reacts. She likes this idea! Ask for the raise! But then back to Ludie and a deeper level of concern. He recalls the two years he spent in bed when he was sick after working for a company for 8 years. And in that time they lost all of their savings and he had to begin working with a new company. Now he has been there 6 months, has never been sick, and he thinks it’s time for some respect. He shows her the book he has been reading: How to become an executive. She likes this idea! Then he says a veteran at the company likes him and told him so. Now they decide to turn in again—in twin beds! Perhaps Jessie Mae is interested in something else besides sleep, but he misses the signal—if that was the case. He goes to the other room (Jessie Mae doesn’t like this!) and says goodnight to his mother. She grabs him “Ludie, please son, I want to go home!” His response: he can’t make a living there. “We have to live in Houston.” (Note the time reference: Harry Truman in the White House.) He begs her not to ask him about this again.
TWO: AN OLD WOMAN’S GREAT ESCAPE
5. The next morning. Carrie awakens in her rocking chair. She hides her social security check and begins hymn singing—much to Jessie Mae’s dismay. Ludie is shaving. Ever the peacemaker, Ludie suggests that they have an early supper and go to a movie. Downtown to a movie is Jessie Mae’s choice! Jessie Mae gets right on the phone to make a hair appointment—for 2.00 p.m. Note that Carrie pays particular attention to the time! Off goes Ludie. He’s going to ask for that raise! Now the two antagonists are alone! And Jessie Mae wants that pension check! The editing separates them as they try to share the small space of that upstairs apartment.
6. Then a brief scene between Ludie and his colleague on the way to work. Back to the house. Jessie Mae wants to call Rosella and get out of the house (and away from Carrie)—but her friend is not home. What now, Jessie Mae? Then she begins to babble on about all the movies she used to see. Suddenly Carrie stumbles and breathes heavily—as if afraid she is going to fall. And Jessie Mae notices it. Jessie Mae is solicitous, gets her some water, and wonders if she should fetch the doctor. Carrie rests on the sofa. She says it’s not her heart. Then she moves to another chair. Now Jessie Mae sits across from her and says she will keep her company. Ha!
7. Cut to a scene of the men arriving at work. Back to the house. Carrie lies in the chair with her eyes closed. Jessie Mae smokes. Then a phone call—from Rosella—and Carrie gives her permission to go ahead and meet Rosella at the drugstore. Happily, Jessie Mae leaves, after assuring Carrie that she can call the drugstore if she needs anything. Now that the ogre has left, Carrie gets to work on hatching her plan. Whoops. Jessie Mae comes back because she forgot to bring her money. Now Jessie Mae is suspicious. She readies herself to leave again, but not before she fires one more shot over the bow: “If you are trying to put something over on me with that pension check, I have told Mr. Reynolds at the grocery never to cash anything for you.” She leaves. Now Carrie frantically packs her bag and sets off on her journey.
8. She takes the bus downtown to the train station. She asks for a ticket to Bountiful and learns no trains go there anymore. She heads for the bus station, and she begins to look a little worse for the wear. Now we see Jessie Mae has returned home. Oh, oh! Back to the bus station. Again she learns there is no direct link to Bountiful. Finally she gets a ticket for nearby Harrison—but the agent won’t cash her pension check.
9. She meets a young woman in the waiting room. She begins to talk about her town of Bountiful. She hasn’t been there in 20 years. She talks and talks, and the young woman seems interested and polite with her. But Carrie keeps jumping up and looking out the window—and sure enough, here come Ludie and Jessie Mae. “Pray for me, honey,” Carrie tells the young woman, and then she runs out the back door. Ludie has the presence of mind to check with the counter agent, but the guy that sold Carrie the ticket went off duty 15 minutes ago. No one here knows about the lady that wanted the ticket to Bountiful. Now all this time the young woman realizes who Ludie and Jessie Mae are. Then Jessie Mae comes over and sits right next to her and complains about her in-law. So why does the young woman not tell her she saw Carrie? Ludie comes over and asks what they should do next. “I don’t care! It’s your mother!” is Jessie Mae’s reply. Then Ludie spots a handkerchief that belongs to Carrie. So he confronts the young woman. Tells her that his mother has a heart condition. The young woman admits that the old woman sat and talked to her, but then she left. Jessie Mae comes back to Ludie and tells him she talked to the police—and they said don’t worry; the old woman is just trying to get their attention. She says the policed said just go home. They leave. Meanwhile, Carrie was hiding out in the station café. She comes out again and heads for the bus loading area. The young woman is right behind her. An old man sits next to her and the young woman walks farther to the back. The bus starts out. Carrie is ecstatic. She pulled it off. She is leaving on her journey.
THREE: AN OLD WOMAN’S JOURNEY
10. Then a montage (scenes compressing time with musical theme) begins as we see the bus cross the country and reaction shots of Carrie. She is happy. Note that the music is an instrumental version of the hymn that began the film (curing the credits).
11. The first stop. They have to wait an hour for the connector. Great shot of Carrie sitting outside the bus stop with a few other people sitting and standing in the warm. Texas night. The young woman goes inside. Carrie and the other passengers chat briefly. Then the connector, a Greyhound bus, comes. And they set off in the night. Now the young woman is sitting next to Carrie, who asks her why she is traveling alone.
12. She tells Carrie that her husband just went overseas ( Korea?). Carrie tells her just to recite the 91 st Psalm, and she begins to do so. Suddenly the young woman begins to cry. She misses him. Soon Carrie is reminiscing about Bountiful and stories of her father and the crop failures and the story of her grandfather naming the town because of all the good crops they had in that generation. Carrie makes it clear that Jessie Mae always belittles Bountiful, but not Carrie. She loved that town.
13. Transitional shots and then back to the two on the bus. The young woman confesses that she knew Ludie and Jessie Mae came into the bus station to look for Carrie. She tells Carrie she did tell her son that she had seen Carrie. But Carrie doesn’t mind. She would have done the same, she says. The young woman says she also talked to Jessie Mae. “I bet she told you I was crazy,” Carrie says. The young woman groans—as if admitting the same. “Don’t worry about hurting my feelings.” They share a laugh. The young woman seems to be warming to the old woman. Now Carrie muses, “I think Ludie knows how I feel about getting back to Bountiful because once, when we were talking about something that happened back there in the old days, he burst out crying, and so overcome, he had to leave the room.”
14. Another transitional shot of the bus in the night, and then back inside the bus, with the young woman eating something, and Carrie lying back with her eyes closed and humming a hymn. The young woman asks her what hymn that is. “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,” Carrie says. Carrie says she sings this hymn a hundred times a day-“when Jessie Mae is not at home!” The young woman laughs. “Jessie hates me. I don’t know why. She just hates me!” Again the young woman laughs. Then she says, almost to herself, “I’ve got to get back and smell that salt air and work that dirt!” She tells the young woman that she is going to visit an old friend, Callie Davis. “The whole first month of my visit I am going to work in Callie’s garden.” Then, “My hands just feel the need of dirt.” She tells the young woman working in the garden is therapy. “I bet I’d live to be 100 if I can just get outdoors again.”
15. Another transitional shot of the bus on the open road. Back inside, Carrie complains about being “cooped up” in those two rooms. “I used to work that land like a man,” she says proudly—almost with a rage in her voice. Then: “I had to, when Papa died. And I’ve got two little babies buried there. Reenie Sue and Douglas. I know that Callie has kept up their graves. If only my heart holds out till I get there.” Then Carrie asks the young woman about where she is headed. She tells Carrie she is going to return to her family—who moved to a town near Harrison from Louisiana. She’ll stay there until her husband comes home. She notes she is the only child and the parents are very close to her.” I so hoped my parents would like my husband. And he’d like them. They hit it off from the very first. Carrie says, “I’ve heard people say if your son marries you lose a son. But if your daughter marries, you get a son.” The young woman likes that idea. Carrie asks her husband’s name. Robert. “That’s a nice name,” Carrie says (and I agree!). “I love my husband very much.” Then Carrie tells her, “I wasn’t in love with my husband.” Now this is almost too much for the young woman. She can’t imagine such a thing. Then Carrie says, “Do you believe we are punished for the things we do wrong? She feels a burden of guilt about this issue. She says, “Of course, I didn’t lie to my husband. I told him I didn’t love him.” Then, as if to herself, she says, “…That I’d never love anybody but Ray John Murray as long as I lived. And I didn’t, and I couldn’t’ help it.” When her husband died, she moved back with her parents. She says every day she would sit on the front porch just so she could “nod hello to Ray John Murray on his way to work. He went a mile out of his way to pass the house.” Note that the camera is now in for a close-up on Carrie. “Never loved nobody but me. Now a reaction shot from the young woman. “Why didn’t you marry him?” The answer is easy. Because her father and his father never got along. Now Carrie has reached the depth of her feelings. “And my papa forced me to write a letter saying he never wanted to see him again. Then he got drunk and he married out of spite!” She is crying. She realizes she is being too loud. She shows the young woman a picture of her one true love. She kisses the young woman’s hand, and the young woman leans her head toward the old woman’s shoulder. “You know, I felt sorry for his wife. She knew he never loved her. She puts the locket (with his picture inside) back inside her dress. “I never think about those things now. “But they’re all part of Bountiful,” she admits. Then she tells the young woman, “You are lucky to be married to the man you love.” The young woman leans sympathetically toward the old woman.
FOUR: 12 MILES FROM BOUNTIFUL
16. The bus pulls into a town at night and beeps. The two get off the bus. The bus stop lights go on and the young woman walks in and asks if her bus will be on time. “Always is,” the manager says. Carrie joins the young woman, and she talks about how surprised her friend Callie will be when she walks in. It’s 10:00 p.m. now. The young woman woman kindly asks the station manager that a woman here wants to go to Bountiful. “What’s she going there for?” he says. “I’m gonna go visit my girlhood friend,” Carrie says. The manager says, “The last person in Bountiful was Miss Callie Davis, and she died the day before yesterday.” Actually, that’s the day they found her body. They don’t know how long she was dead. As he exits, he adds, “They had the funeral this morning.” Of course, Carrie is shocked. “She was my friend, my girlhood friend.” Carrie sits down, stunned by the news. The young woman asks the manager how far a hotel is from here. Three blocks. The young woman comes out and sits next to Carrie. “It’s come to me what to do,” the old woman says. “I’ll go on. That much has come to me. I feel my strength and my purpose strong within me. I will go to Bountiful. I will walk t he 12 miles if I have to.” The young woman has been staring admiringly at her, but now she wonders if the old woman knows what she is doing. What if there’s no one there? She urges her to wait until morning. Now Carrie has an idea. She can hire somebody the next morning. Then she makes a decision. “I will stay at my own house, or what’s left of it. You put me in a garden, and I get along just fine.” Carrie starts to return to the station, but the young woman encourages her to stay the night at a nearby hotel. Of course, that’s out of the question. “I’m not going to waste my money on hotels!” She fixes to sleep on a bench that night. Suddenly she realizes she left her purse on the bus. They wake up the manager and he agrees to phone ahead to the next stop and retrieve the purse. He promises she will have her purse in a few hours.
17. The young woman promises to sit up with Carrie until her own bus comes. “I’ll see you off.” Carrie tells her she has been trying to return to Bountiful for five years. Apparently she has been captured before by her son and daughter-in-law before she got out of town. The recites her happy adventures of the day and adds that she “hid out, and I met a pretty friend like you.” The young woman appreciates that response. “Guess the Lord’s just with me today.” Then she pauses. “I wonder why the Lord’s not with us everyday. Sure would be nice if He was.” Then Carrie takes a different tack. “Or maybe He’s with us always, and we just don’t know it. And maybe I had to wait 20 years cooped up in the city before I could appreciate getting back here. Then she begins to sing a hymn: “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God! Born of his spirit, washed of his blood!” Then she turns to the young woman, waves her arms, and says, “Isn’t it nice to be able to sing a hymn when you want to?” She goes onto another verse, beginning, “This is my story, this is my song!” The station agent looks on—unimpressed. Now Carrie urges her friend to sing along, and the two generations sing the rest of t he hymn. Carrie is delighted. “I am a happy woman, young lady. I am a very happy woman. The young woman thoughtfully offers her a sandwich, but Carrie only takes half of it.
18. The two exit the station and stand on the porch. Suddenly Carrie turns and says, “I came to my first dance in this town. She tells her story of the first dance. Her father didn’t approve, but her mother gave her permission. Then Carrie changes direction a moment, turns to the young woman, and says, “If my daughter had lived, I would have wanted her to be just like you.” The young woman thanks her. “Yes! Sweet and considerate and thoughtful and pretty.” The two women are standing in the street now. No one else is around. Then the station agent steps into the shot and reminds the young woman that her bus is coming. This breaks the spell, and now the young woman returns to the station to fetch her bags. Now Carrie begins to retell her story to the station agent. “I’ve been to Harrison quite a few times. Suddenly the old woman turns as she hears the bus approaching and begins to wave it in like an airport runway worker bringing a jet up to the gate. The young woman runs out, embraces Carrie, and Carrie says, “I’m so sorry, darling. Good luck to you. The Greyhound pulls away, and Carrie is left standing in the street. She remains the object of the station agent’s POV shot.
19. She goes inside with him, and she asks, “Do they still have dances over at the opera house?” Of course, it was torn down a long time ago. He asks, “Did you ever know anybody in Harrison?” She mentions several names—but none register with him. Then she mentions Ewing’s store, and he asks her which Ewing that was. “George White Ewing,” she says. “He’s dead,” he deadpans. “That so?” she replies. “Been dead 12 years.” He turns off all the lights. Then the agent says the old man left a big inheritance, but his son took over the store and lost it all. He drank it all away. “One thing I can say about my boy, he never gave me any trouble that way,” Carrie says. Now the station agent seems to want to share something. “I’ve got one boy that drinks and one boy that doesn’t. Can’t understand it. Raised them the same way.” Carrie sympathizes with him. Then the agent goes into his office and through the open window turns to her and says with great seriousness, “Friend of mine has a girl that drinks. Carrie expresses shock. “I think that‘s the saddest thing in the world,” he concludes. Then he says good night. Now alone, Carrie lies on the bench with her head on her coat and looks at a book in her hand. She closes her eyes.
FIVE: ALONE AND DEFEATED
20. POV shot from inside a car. A man is driving. He stops at the bus station. He pets a cat on the porch and then picks it up. Inside, he walks past Carrie and drops the cat in the station agent’s lap. The agent’s name is Roy. That wakes Roy up. The man is the sheriff. He asks about the old woman. “She got off the bus from Houston?” Roy says she did, and he knows her name—Mrs. Watts. Roy tells him her purse was just delivered. The sheriff checks it and then confirms that “I got a call from the Houston police to hold her till her son can come for her.” Roy is shocked. “She said she used to live in Bountiful.” The sheriff fixes to wake her up, but then he backs off—as if respecting her need to rest. She seems sound asleep. He asks Roy to call Houston and confirm they have found her. He will return to his office for a bit. The son should be here by 7:30. “Now you keep your eye on her.” The sheriff exits, and just then Carrie wakes up, sits up, and greets Roy. She asks about her purse, and he hands it to her. She wants him to cash her pension check, but he says no. She shares her plans: “I want to hire somebody to drive me out, look at my house, and get a few groceries and try to find a cot to sleep on.” But Roy has some bad news. “You’re not going to Bountiful.” When she disagrees with him, he cuts her off: “I have to hold you here for the sheriff.” She becomes defiant. “Don’t you joke with me. I have come too far!” But then he tells her that her son is arriving this morning. “My son hasn’t got a car,” Carrie declares. Carrie yields to Roy, but then she turns and declares, “But I’m going. Do you understand that? And no sheriff or king or president is going to keep me from going back to Bountiful.” She sits down and glares at him. She asks when Ludie is supposed to arrive. 7:30. Now she has a plan. She can visit Bountiful and be back before Ludie arrives. Poor Roy is flustered now. She declares, “I just want to see it! Just to stand on the porch of my own house again.” Suddenly she changes her mind. The night before she was bound and determined to stay in her house in Bountiful. “But now, I’ll settle for less.” She is willing to negotiate. She asks for an hour, half an hour, 15 minutes. “Get me the sheriff!” she screams when he won’t agree to her plan. At one point she tries to push past him, and he has to hold onto her and then push her back. She turns around and retreats as she says, “They’re going to have me locked up in those two rooms again soon and the time is going—“but now she stares because the sheriff has returned.
21. Now she makes her plea to the sheriff as we can see the morning light changing the color of their faces. “I have made myself one promise—to see my home before I die. Now I am not asking that I not go back. Just let me go those 12 miles now.” When the sheriff says this argument should be between the old woman and her son, Carrie says, “He’s got to do whatever his wife tells him to do. And I know why she wants me back—it’s for my government check! The sheriff tries to tell her it’s none of his business, and he affirms that she can’t go to Bountiful unless her son takes her. “All right then—I’ve lost,” she cries. She leans against the dull gray wall and says, “I’m gonna die, and Jessie Mae knows it, and it is her will that I die in those two rooms.” Now the sheriff is looking increasingly uncomfortable. “She is not going to have her way. It is my will to die in Bountiful!” She runs right up to the sheriff, and he grabs her arms and holds her back. She pleads with him. “Suffering I don’t mind! Suffering I understand. I didn’t protest once! Even when my heart was broken when those babies died. But these 15 years of bickering, of endless, petty bickering. It’s made me like Jessie Mae sees me! And it’s ugly, and I will not be that way! I want to go home!” She falls into the sheriff’s arms. This man has gotten more than he bargained for! She pulls away from him, and then she has one of her sinking spells, and the sheriff helps her lie down on the bench. The sheriff asks Roy to fetch the doctor. Carrie sobs and sobs.
SIX: RETURN TO BOUNTIFUL
22. Later, the doctor talks to the sheriff on the porch. He tells the sheriff she will be okay. The sheriff comes over, kneels down, and talks to Carrie, who is sitting up on the bench. She says she feels better. The sheriff tells her she is to keep calm until her son arrives. Then he says, “But he said he didn’t think it would do harm if I wanted to drive you out to your place—as long as you felt well enough to go.” Reaction shot of Carrie. She is shocked. Cut to an exterior shot of the sheriff’s car driving in the country. Then we see the two in the car. Carrie is radiant as she checks out her surroundings.
23. Then we see Ludie and Jessie Mae arrive in Harrison. Ludie drove his colleague’s car. Back to Carrie and the sheriff. They drive past an old rotted sign that reads, “ Bountiful.” Carrie reacts: “Lord, look at Bountiful. There’s nothing left!” They drive past a few abandoned, unpainted buildings—all in a serious state of disrepair. Outside of what used to the town of Bountiful, they drive off the road into a field. The sheriff kindly opens the door for her, and she stands there, reacting to the scene. “Home,” she says. “I’m home.” Then we see the two walking up to what used to be her house. It has been swallowed up by the woods around it. As they walk, you can see her point out one thing and then another thing about the property. In a medium shot, they stop, and she turns to thank him. He tells her to sit down and rest for a while. He pulls out an orange crate for her to sit down on, and then he asks her if she is okay. “Well, you look better,” he says. Then he sits about 10 feet away from her on the old porch. They listen to a cardinal singing (they call it a redbird). They talk about another bird, and then Carrie drops into serious reminiscing. She talks about her father—a good man, but a peculiar man—and “one thing he could never stand was to see a bird shot on his land. If he saw a man coming in here to hunt, he’d just take his gun and chase him away! And I think the birds knew they couldn’t be touched here.” Then they talk some more about birds—and both share that their favorite is a mockingbird. Then back to the reminiscing. She says her father was born on this land and in this house. Then she stands up, and she tells him that she has had the feeling, ever since they got here, that her mother and father would “come out of this house, greet me, and welcome me home.” Now she is crying. This emotion is too strong. The sheriff has a hard time not crying too. “Well, I guess when you’ve lied longer than your house and your family, you’ve lived long enough.” She walks away, then, more composed. She asks whatever happened to the farms. All she has seen is empty fields. “The land around Bountiful just played out,” he says. “Callie Davis kept her farm going,” she says. He agrees. “I heard she was out riding the tractor the day before she died. Yeah, it was a lonely death she had. All by herself in that big old house.” She notes that there are worse things—(I suppose like living in a prison-like two rooms in an apartment in Houston with your son and his wife?). The sheriff changes the subject.
Later, she is sitting on the porch. Obviously, some time has passed. He asks her if she is feeling rested. She says she is. He tells her he will go back to the car and wait for her. SEVEN: MOTHER AND SON
24. Alone now, she gets up and goes inside the house. She moves from room to room. She goes upstairs, and she sees an old bed frame in the corner. The sound track plays a version of Blessed Assurance in the background. Then she hears Ludie call out her name. He finds her sitting on an old rocking chair on the porch. “I feel much better, Ludie." She looks restored. “I got my wish!” She apologizes for all the hurt she has caused. “It’s done now, so let’s just forget about it,” he says. She asks about Jessie Mae. “Now she’s here, isn’t she going to get out of the car and look around a little?” Apparently not. Then Carrie asks him about his raise. He said his boss would recommend that he get a raise. Carrie tells him all about Carrie Davis. He listens, but he is distracted too. “I should have made myself bring you out here sooner.” He apologizes. “I just thought it would be easier if we didn’t see the house again.” She asks him if he would like to look around inside. He declines. “I don’t see any use in it. I’d rather remember it like it was. She stands on the porch and looks inside the door. She admits the house is run-down. Then she leaves the porch and looks at her son. “You know who you look like standing there? My papa.” She wants more out of Ludie here, but he is unable to give it. “I was only 10 when he died, Mama.” But he adds, “I remember the day that he died.” He was told about it when he was coming home from school. “I remember you took me into the parlor there the day of the funeral to say good-bye to him. I remember the coffin and the people sitting in the room.” He recalls a friend of the family telling Ludie that “his life was a real example for me to follow.” Now Ludie is getting worked up. He remembers his grandmother telling him, “When I had a son of my own I would name him after Grandpa. I would too! I have never forgotten that promise! Well, I didn’t have a son—or a daughter!” That’s what this has all been about, then. He tells her that his colleague’s wife is expecting their fourth child. He is really getting worked up about this. He envies his colleague’s family and his good life. His colleague will ask him, “I don’t know how you get along, Ludie. What you work for? And I said, ‘Well, Billy…’” But then he stops that line of thinking and he shifts to, “I haven’t made any kind of life for you, Mama. Either of you. And I try so hard. Mama, I lied to you. I do remember.” Great reaction shot of Carrie. She is stunned to hear him talk this way. He remembers “the night you woke me up, dressed me, took me for a walk when the moon was full and I cried because I was scared and you comforted me.” But then he pauses and says, “I want to stop remembering. It doesn’t do any good remembering.” Seated on the porch, she looks up at him and takes his hand. Then there is a horn beeping. It’s Jessie Mae of course. She looks at them from the car. Ludie tells her it’s time to go. Suddenly she breaks down, sits back down on the porch, and cries. He sits next to her. She leans on his shoulder and sobs. “Ludie, what has happened to us? How did we come to this?” She wonders if it had been better for them to stay and fought the land. She realizes that in 10 or 20 years all of this will be gone. She’ll be gone. Then she says, “The river’s still here, the fields, the trees, and the smell of the Gulf.” She has her hand around his shoulders. “I always got my strength from that. Not from houses. And not from people.” Cut to a tracking shot of the empty field and the copse of trees in the distance. This shot if from their POV. “It’s so quiet. It’s so eternally quiet. I’d forgotten the peace the quiet.” Reaction shot of the two on the porch. She says, “Do you remember how my papa always had that filed over there planted in cotton?” He nods. “You see, it’s all woods now. But I expect someday people will come and cut down the trees and plant the cotton and maybe even wear out the land again. And then their children will sell it and move to the cities. And then trees will come up again. And we’re part of all that. We left it, but we can never lose what it’s given us.” He responds, “I expect so, Mama.” I think he gets what she is saying. Wide shot of the two sitting on the porch of the old house.
EIGHT: FAMILY REUNION
25.Then Jessie calls out to her husband. Finally, we can see her coming at them across the field. “I’m not speaking to you,” she warns Carrie. Same old Jessie Mae. Then, when she’s closer, she unloads, “And she should realize that. She’s selfish. That’s her trouble.” Then she moves closer, and she introduces another topic. “Did you tell your mama what we were discussing in the car?” He says they will deal with all that later. But Jessie Mae is adamant. Now! What is this all about? Jessie Mae has written down “a few rules and regulations that are necessary for my peace of mind.” Notice that this scene is being parallel edited—as if Jessie Mae is confronting both Ludie and Carrie, who stand together against her. Jessie Mae wonders why Carrie even came if she knew she would have to come back. “Twenty years is a long time,” Carrie says. “Didn’t you know you could’ve died?” ‘I knew.” Jessie Mae hopes the old woman has her whim out of her system. And in some ways Carrie agrees. “I’ve had my trip, and that’s more than enough to keep me happy for the rest of my life.” Now Jessie Mae joins the other two in the frame and begins to read her list. No more running away. Carrie agrees to that. No more hymn singing—when Jessie Mae is in the apartment. Agreed. (Notice how the shots of Carrie show her standing next to the old wooden clapboards of the house. Next on the list: no more pouting. Agreed. But notice that Carrie has walked away from them now and has her back turned to both of them. Now Jessie Mae moves closer to her—because number four is a tough one. No more running—only walk around the apartment. Agreed. Then Carrie kisses Jessie Mae on the cheek. Again Carrie moves away from them, and they are all lined up in the frame, foreground, midground, and background. Jessie Mae has another stipulation. She is going to join a bridge club and go downtown at least twice a week. Now Ludie pops in with, “And we also agreed to get along.” Now Jessie Mae has another problem: she scratched her shoes. Suddenly Ludie tells her about being a boy here and drinking water from the creek nearby. But Jessie Mae will have none of that. Finally, they are ready to walk away. But where’s her purse? Jessie Mae finds it in the house, and of course she wants that pension check! Now! But it’s not in the purse. Then Carrie remembers she put it inside her dress. She pulls it out, and now Jessie Mae grabs it out of Carrie’s hand and keeps on with her sniping. Finally Ludie snaps. “We are going to stop this wrangling once and for all! You have given me your word and I expect you to keep your word!” The two women hold up their hands to block the sun. They are shocked at his outburst. “We have to live together,” he says. “We’re going to live together in peace.” Now Jessie Mae returns the check to Carrie. Then she walks away. Carrie consoles her son by saying, “It’s all right. I’ve had my trip.” She tells him to go on. “The house used to look so big,” he says. Now alone, Carrie sits in the grass for a moment, pulls at the grass, knocks some soil off her hands, gets up, turns around, looks at the house one more time, and then turns around. “Good-bye, Bountiful,” she says. We can see the house behind her. She exits the frame. They get into the car. We hear the strains of the old hymn, “Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling—calling all sinners, ‘Come home!’” Cut to Carrie in the backseat. Then we see the car drive over the hill of the field as we hear a woman’s voice singing the hymn. The car disappears as the credits begin. The singer continues the hymn.
Film resource written by Robert E. Yahnke
Copyright, Robert E. Yahnke, © 2009
Professor, Univ. of Minnesota
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