Where to begin? I’m sure most of you have heard of the film Legends of the Fall, a mainstream big-budget Hollywood film released in 1994. A lengthy drama about an immigrant family living in an early 20th century Montana, the film features stunning scenery (most of which is actually in Canada) and an engrossing narrative of the Ludlow family struggles. Still, I have many mixed opinions about this movie.
The story begins with the youngest Ludlow brother Samuel (portrayed by Henry Thomas) returning home from Harvard University with his fiancée Susannah (Julia Ormond) in tow. Susannah is charmed by the family and Montana life and is quickly accepted by everyone. The Ludlow’s live on a gorgeous Montana ranch, maintained with the help of patriarch William Ludlow’s (Anthony Hopkins) old friend One Stab, and his family. As Susannah becomes acquainted with everyone, One Stab’s young daughter Isabel confides that someday she is going to marry Tristan, the middle Ludlow brother (played by Brad Pitt). Ah, foreshadowing.
Despite her engagement to Samuel, and the not-so-subtle admiration from oldest Ludlow brother Alfred (played by Aidan Quinn), Susannah finds herself drawn to the wild, untamed Tristan, who somehow looks nothing like the rest of the family. With long blonde hair and blue eyes, I am guessing he was something of a young Fabio to the local ladies (if they had any clue who Fabio was).
Even with all this family melodrama, Samuel announces to the family that he feels drawn to aid his country as well as Britain against Germany during World War I. All three brothers end up in the war, feeling the need to keep their youngest sibling safe. However, when Samuel is killed in the line of duty, both Alfred and Tristan are overcome with guilt. While Alfred returns home to Montana, Tristan is too distraught and wanders aimlessly around the world, struggling to deal with the death of his younger brother.
When Tristan finally returns home he finds that Susannah is still there and has been waiting for him. They declare their singular affection for each other, much to Alfred’s dismay, and all is well for a time. But Tristan is still having trouble dealing with the loss of Samuel, as well as a tumultuous relationship with jealous Alfred, and he decides to leave home once again. Dismayed, Susannah promises to wait for him forever…but forever ends up being a matter of years. While Tristan is off frolicking with his inner demons she finally gives in to Alfred’s love and propositions of marriage.
At last Tristan comes home for good, only to find Susannah with Alfred. We discover that young Isabel has grown into a beautiful young woman and does indeed marry Tristan. But after a handful of tragedies he once again finds himself alone. It takes way too much death and destruction, but as the film closes the family has at last reformed their bonds and come together again. And that’s pretty much it. Nearly three hours later one must wonder if the somewhat-fulfilling end of this movie was worth all the depressing parts. I, for one, am torn. I’ll let you decide. Until next time.
Legends of the Fall, 1994, Rated R
Starring Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Aidan Quinn
Directed by Edward Zwick
Written by Susan Shilliday, William D. Wittliff
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