A lonely farmer helps a slave-girl escape her master. [Dir: John Duigan/ Jason Patric, Thandie Newton, Larry Drake/ 92 min/ Action-Adventure/ Anti-Slavery]
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In the beginning, the shy, lonely farmer at the center of it is a virtuous but neutral sort of person. When he encounters an escaped slave-girl in the woods, he shows her the way north to freedom, but beyond that he won’t help her because doing so would mean breaking the law. She nonetheless sees in him the promise of further assistance, and as he travels on his long trek home from a supply run, she follows. Here and there, she approaches him, and pleads for food and other aid. At first, he resists her pleas, but as she is hounded by her vicious pursuers, he gradually gains sympathy for her and decides to defy the law and all its enforcers to save her.
Doing so involves great personal risk, and along the way circumstances related to protecting her require him to sacrifice all his possessions one by one, but it’s worth it. As he says in the end: “I was right well-to-do. [Now], I’ve lost everything. But I never been so proud.” His transformation from docile observer of life to independent hero is terrifically uplifting, and there are lessons here that libertarians will appreciate: doing what’s right is more important than obedience to the law; freedom is more important to human happiness than security; and helping others gain liberty can be worth the price.
The telling of this moving story benefits from good casting, well-chosen music, and patient, focused direction. It’s also refreshingly free of some of the more common shortcomings of modern films, such as obligatory love-interests, one-dimensional characters, gratuitous violence, etc. On the downside, the actors don’t always seem adequately frightened given the circumstances, but this is a small flaw. It was filmed on location in North Carolina.