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‘Sommersby’ Movie Ending Explained | Full Details

Sommersby (Warner, 115 minutes, PG-13, no price): Sommersby is a film about a young woman who grows up in a small town. Jodie Foster may have won two Academy Awards in the span of four years, but when it comes to love scenes, she is still considered a novice.

Surprisingly, in the romantic Sommersby, this works to her advantage.

Foster portrays Laurel Sommersby, a young wife in post-Civil War Tennessee whose soldier husband has been missing in action for six years. Foster was born in the same year as her soldier husband. In the middle of the night, someone claiming to be Jack Sommersby (Richard Gere) shows up and Laurel immediately suspects that he is an imposter. No matter whether he is or isn’t, Laurel is hesitant when they begin to get romantically involved, and her reluctance is effective both in terms of her character and the actress, both of whom are, in some ways, in the process of becoming a sexual being.

It turns out that the love scenes in this otherwise uninspired film are the most appealing sequences. Not only is Foster’s girlish insecurity amusing in and of itself, but it also brings out a twinkling in Gere’s eyes as well.

They work together to transform their romantic encounters into sultry comedy routines.

Sommersby is based on the French film The Return of Martin Guerre, which was released in 1982. A 16th-century peasant and his wife (Gerard Depardieu) are the focus of the film, which is touching in its own way despite being generally overrated.

Because the story is set in the South shortly after the Civil War, director Jon Amiel and his screenwriters are able to capitalize on our collective sense of the post-war period’s confusion and dislocation to help dispel the notion that a small community might not question a man too closely if he claims to be someone who once lived in the community.

And somewhere along the line, the filmmakers appear to have realized that, without a strong Gallic atmosphere, Sommersby could have been as dramatically thin as an extended episode of, To Tell the Truth, had the film not been released. Consequently, a subplot has been introduced, in which Jack’s anti-racist sentiments bring him into conflict with the Ku Klux Klan, in order to make the story more complete.

However, the problem with this subplot is that the screenwriters (Nicholas Meyer, Sarah Kernochan, and Anthony Shaffer) are completely unable to provide an explanation for Jack’s enlightened outlook, or why he is willing to take the risk of blowing his cover by espousing such controversial views if he is in fact an imposter.

Even more troubling about Sommersby is the way it comes to a close.

Let’s just say that the ending isn’t particularly happy in order to avoid giving too much away. However, the plot’s mechanics and the emotional thrust of the film’s final sections lead us to believe that we will see something positive.

An unhappy ending that isn’t properly prepared for comes across as almost as contrived as – and a great deal more disappointing than – a happy ending that isn’t properly prepared for. Director Amiel and his screenwriters are attempting to have it both ways, and the results are almost certain to leave the majority of moviegoers feeling cheated and disappointed. (This film is available on videodisc.)

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