What would you do if your husband, presumed dead, returned suddenly? Especially if he were a cold, heartless man with no redeeming qualities and you had already met another man that loved you dearly. And suppose, after his return, you find a different person - kinder, gentler, tender, loving - would you toss out the new guy or toss out the old guy?
Laurel Sommersby is met with this dilemma. Her husband, Jack, went off to fight in the Civil War and was never heard from again. Suddenly seven years later, he strolls up the driveway - a little worn but alive nonetheless. Out of sense of duty, she ends her relationship with Orin, he doesn't take it well, and resumes her marriage to Jack. But this isn't the Jack that left home 7 years before.
Previously overbearing and insensitive, he now treats his workers as equals and offers part of the estate to them for their own personal holding. He attempts to bring the town back together by offering to change the crops from flagging cotton fields to the more profitable tobacco fields. He suddenly has time for his son and his wife, where before they were simply an end to a means. Townspeople, and Laurel, are amazed at the transformation. Love blooms ..... but not for all. There is that Orin, lurking in the background.
While passing through town, an itinerant laborer sees Jack and recognizes him as Horace Townsend, someone he knew from another town not far away. This fuels suspicion for Orin, who decides to investigate further. Suddenly Jack is served with a murder warrant for something that happened many years ago. Why it took so long for this to happen, I don't know, except of course it is needed for the story line.
During the trial, Orin becomes convinced Jack is indeed Horace Townsend and hoping to expose his ruse and win Laurel back, he approaches her and pleads with her to tell that he is a fraud, thereby releasing him from the murder charges - and of course from Laurel. At first Laurel agrees but in the end realizes it does not matter who he is, she loves him just the same. Now you wonder why she does not expose him, because it would end the murder trial, but circumstances regarding legal documents that he has signed since returning prohibits this and Jack convinces her to let the situation ride.
Jack is sentenced to death but confesses to Laurel he is indeed Horace, had been imprisoned with her husband after the war, and buried him after his death - assuming his name. An ironic twist of fate.
Though not always believable in his role, Gere did give a good performance of a both soft and ruthless man. Foster - well, as always, dedicated herself to her part, appearing both strong and approachable. Pullman, with his puppy dog eyes makes you want to like him, but he turns out to be quite an ass in this character.
Richard Gere, Sommersby; Jodie Foster, Laurel Sommersby; Bill Pullman, Orin; William Windom, Reverend Powell; James Earl Jones, judge.
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Susi Dawson (SusiDee34)
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A man returning home after six years in the Civil War struggles to reconstruct his life and marriage. His idyllic hopes are shattered when he is accused of not being who he claims. Based on the French film THE RETURN OF MARTIN GUERRE.