1918 | Chicago Reader

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The eternal cycle of life and death gets one more run-through, this time in one of those small Texas towns where half the population seems to consist of stoic philosophers and the other half of drooling cretins. Death haunts these little people, in the form (offstage) of World War I and (onstage, though considerably sanitized) of an influenza epidemic. There is a lot of histrionic suffering, and plenty of cutaways to the town cemetery (where the black grave digger offers wise, folksy observations), but darned if one of the main characters doesn't turn out to be pregnant in time for the film's life-affirming climax. Screenwriter Horton Foote (To Kill a Mockingbird, Tender Mercies) is so anxious to hammer home his trite themes that he runs right over the most basic rules of dramatic construction—there's no center to the story, and no logic in its unfolding—and he gets no help from the choppy, amateurish direction of Ken Harrison, who strains for a cosmic stillness and achieves a crushing monotony. With Matthew Broderick, William Converse Roberts, Hallie Foote, and Jeannie McCarthy.

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