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Days Of Heaven

Year: 1978
Studio: Paramount
Director: Terrence Malick
Writer: Terrence Malick
Cast: Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard

If you had no idea who Terrence Malick was and you'd seen The New World, The Thin Red Line and a couple of his later films, you'd pick Days of heaven as being from the same director.

The self-indulgence that went up to 11 in The Tree of Life is here, but reigned in much more. There are plenty of long, loving shots of nature and pioneer life on a farm in what appears to be the very early 20th century, but (maybe he once considered the story more important) is mostly taken up with an actual plot –a lot more of it than you're used to from him.

It's the tale of a couple of drifters, Bill (an adolescent-looking Gere) and Abby (Adams, who I haven't seen since Shirley Conran's Lace) who are in love but for a reason I couldn't figure out, pose as brother and sister. There's also Bill's young sister Linda, who narrates the story in Malick's signature style, all long, slow, introspective sentences.

When they find themselves in the wind-blown Midwest getting work on a farm, Abby catches the eye of the farmer, and the hot-tempered Bill convinces her to accept his marriage proposal when they find out he's sick and expected to die so they can inherit his fortune.

But when it doesn't happen, things slowly shift for the couple as Bill finds himself more impatient and unsure of their relationship, and Abby finds herself warming to her husband in a way she never expected.

The climax is uncharacteristically violent of Malick at the time, although it has strong echoes of his previous major film, Badlands, and while it's not the most interesting film you've seen it's essential viewing if you're a Malick fan to see where he came from.

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