Review of the Road Ends by Mary Larson

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Review By Carla Sands

The Road Ends is a story of journeys — journeys taken by members of a family living in the northern isolated reaches of Ontario in the 1960s. The backdrop of a brutal winter further underscores the hardship and loneliness of this family as they seek to find warmth and protection from both external and internal elements.

As the family implodes, Megan the only daughter of eight children — leaves for England to begin a life of her own. She leaves behind a family isolated from each other and unable to heal from their emotional wounds. Megan, her brother Tom, and her father give voice to their torments as they journey to find redemption, answers, and hope for their lives.

Lawson beautifully layers her story, illuminating the sacrifices we make and the responsibilities we have for each other. The novel is not a happy one, but the journeys’ ends provide us with a testament to the resiliency of love and family ties.

Review of Open Range (2003)

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In the mood for a western? Give Open Range a try.

It’s the story of two cowboys named Boss (Robert Duvall) and Charley (Kevin Costner). These cattlemen are traveling across the American West minding their own business when they are unintentionally caught up in a bitter feud with a town sheriff and land baron.

The film opens with a stunning shot of the prairie and depicts the solitary, hard-working life of these nomadic cowboys. They are removed from the townspeople, many of whom don’t take kindly to “free grazers” who allow their cattle to roam on their lands. The cattlemen do their best to avoid a quarrel, but when these townspeople brutally kill one of their friends, they decide to fight back. Can these outsiders convince the townspeople to back them up or will fear and prejudice force them to stand up to these corrupt lawmen alone?

I enjoyed this movie more than I thought I would. Everything from the cinematography to the costumes transports you into its western setting. The suspense is subtle and builds slowly throughout the film. Just when you think one of the characters is going to walk into an ambush or start a fight, all of a sudden he backs away. The quintessential shootout does not happen until very late in the movie, which is just one of the characteristics that makes Open Range more of a character story than an action-adventure flick.

While Boss does his best to avoid conflict, Charley is no stranger to violence. Secretly, they both yearn to settle down and have a family, but their traumatic pasts have led them to pull away from intimate relationships. When they meet a charming doctor’s wife (played by Annette Bening), Charley doesn’t know how to handle his feelings towards her. He is a hard man, afraid of gentility and love. Slowly, throughout the movie, he fights to tear down these walls he’s put up around him. It’s not an easy process, but a necessary one if he hopes to experience any happiness in his life. We get a sense from watching this movie that neither man has experienced much joy recently. As much as the open range is beautiful and peaceful, for them it’s an escape. Can they find a balance between solitude and human interaction? This is just one of the questions that the plot forces upon these men.

If you enjoy thoughtful dramas, classic westerns, or romance, then this is the movie for you.

Available to check out now from the Gabriele Library.