Far and Away (1992)
Directed by Ron Howard, Universal Pictures
Starring Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Colm Meaney, Robert Prosky, Thomas Gibson
Two Irish immigrants to America pursue their dreams of owning their own land in Oklahoma Territory.
I remember very well when I saw this movie for the first time. I had just graduated high school, and was down in Texas visiting my dad and grandmother for a few weeks in the summer. I had a bit of a crush on the next door neighbors’ grandson, and I think they pressured him to do a nice thing and take me out, so we went to see this movie. I still remember being blown away, both by the fact that this cute boy had taken me out to the movies and also about how awesome this movie was.
Ever since then, it’s been a St Patrick’s Day tradition in my family for years to watch this movie. Yes, I think we can all agree that Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman’s “Oirish” accents aren’t the greatest, but I feel the movie makes up for it with the lush cinematography (shot in Panavision Super 70) and a brilliant soundtrack by John Williams, featuring Irish artists like the Chieftains and Enya. And there is nothing like the Oklahoma Land Race at the end, it’s so incredibly EPIC! To this day it still gives me goosebumps to watch. Someday I want to watch it again in a theater on a giant screen with surround sound…that would be sick! (Trivia alert – apparently three of Ron Howard’s grandparents rode in the actual Oklahoma Land Race!)
Read on for what God showed me in Far and Away!
Spoilers For Far and Away here!
The movie begins in Ireland in 1892 with Joseph Donnelly trying to eke out a living on his family’s small farm. His father is killed in an accident, and their home is burnt to the ground when the family falls behind on their rent. Joseph seeks to kill his landlord, Daniel Christie, in revenge, but when he arrives at the Christie home, he is distracted by the Christies’ daughter, Shannon, and is injured and captured. Shannon plans to escape her stifling and proper life by running away, and invites Joseph to come with her, so that he may claim his own farmland in America. Joseph agrees, and the two make their way to Boston.
Joseph starts a career in prizefighting while Shannon gets a job plucking chickens, and the two gradually grow closer. When Joseph loses a crucial fight, the Irish ward boss, Mike Kelly, tosses Joseph and Shannon out in the street in retaliation. Starving, they break into a house to look for food, and Shannon is injured. Joseph brings her to her parents’ house, who have come to America to search for her, then leaves to pursue work on the railroad. Joseph becomes restless and remembers his original dream of someday owning his own land, so he makes his way to Oklahoma territory, where he has a chance to run in the Oklahoma Land Race and win his land. He discovers Shannon, her parents, and her fiance, Stephen, are also running in the race, and a jealous Stephen tries to kill him. Shannon spurns Stephen, and she and Joseph claim their land together.
So What Did God Show Me?
-I was getting a little bit of a Biblical Joseph vibe at the beginning. Joseph appears to be his father’s favorite, and his father and brothers both describe him as a “dreamer”. Joseph admits that his ambitions are grander than his brothers’, and his brothers get angry and beat him up for it.
-I love how God has planted the dream of owning and farming his own land in Joseph’s heart. Joseph endures a lot of ridicule for this, (as do many of us following dreams that others don’t understand!) even his father calls him “An exceptionally odd boy.” But, his father uses this almost as an endearment, and encourages him to follow his dreams, no matter what. As his father lies dying, he sends Joseph off with his blessing.
-Grief at losing his father and his home causes Joseph’s dreams to seem unattainable, and he finds himself instead fixated with the desire to avenge his father’s death. Grief, while a natural effect of loss, can also consume us if we’re not careful. Joseph’s father, even as he lies dying, is encouraging his son to go after his dreams, even though he won’t be around but will be “smiling down on him from heaven above.” I know when my mother died I put aside my writing dreams for a time. I just couldn’t face writing, I carried so much guilt for keeping it a secret from my mom for so long. Thank God, He didn’t leave me where I was, and didn’t let my dream die, but used friends and encouragers to stoke that dream back to life. My mom wouldn’t have wanted me to give up on my dreams, no matter what, and God knew that.
-Joseph is so lost in vengeance he can’t see how his “enemy”, Daniel Christie, is just as enslaved as he is, and therefore is sympathetic to his plight and wants to help him. Grief can blind us to so much because all we can feel is our pain.
-I thought it was sort of funny that Joseph blesses Daniel with “long life and health” when the whole time he is planning to murder him later. But God honors his blessing anyway, saving Daniel’s life and even giving him and his wife “new life” with Joseph and Shannon at the end, so they can live like they’re “starting out in life, instead of ending up.”
-Joseph finds out just how worthless his vengeance is and only ends up hurting himself when his gun explodes in his face. How many times in our lives have we been driven by revenge or anger, only to have it blow up in our face?
-Shannon, while escaping her own prison of a prim and proper life, gives Joseph a chance at a new life too when she invites him to join her. But, the thing is, Joseph had to choose to go with her. And it took him a bit too, he had to struggle with his pride before choosing the way of life. I think we struggle with that too, because often the way God provides doesn’t look like we thought it would, or it causes us to go in some direction or follow some way we’re not familiar or comfortable with. But if we trust God and are willing to take the risks to follow Him into the unknown, oh, what awaits us!
-Like in the Biblical Joseph’s story, God uses earthly catastrophe and mistakes to bring about His will and give Joseph and Shannon a future and a hope. If Joseph had decided to stay on his farm or try and find work someplace else, instead of setting off to kill his landlord, he would never have been able to travel to America, or help Shannon when she needed it. If Shannon hadn’t decided to run away, Joseph would have been killed. The need to pursue their dreams drove both of them, and God knew that, for he had planted those dreams in their hearts, and he WANTED them to come to fruition, just like He does for our own dreams. It’s so interesting to me the effects our choices can have on our lives and the lives of others…effects that most of the time we are totally unaware of.
-Like a lot of us, Joseph and Shannon get distracted by what the world offers and forget their dreams for a time, because they feel the world is offering them something “bright and shiny” and better than their dreams. Shannon, having been a rich man’s daughter living an affluent life, is brought low and humbled, while Joseph succumbs to the flattery of the world and lets himself be used. He comes to a point where he believes his value is only found in what he can give the men who bet on him, and how much money he can make them. Shannon calls Joseph out and tries to speak truth to him, but he won’t hear her. And then even Shannon succumbs briefly because she feels she’ll only succeed if she gives men her body, and that her only value is in her beauty. How easily we can fall under the world’s deceptions! The enemy does not want us to follow the dreams God has placed in our hearts, and therefore tries to distract and deceive us any way he can, just to keep us from the future that God has promised us.
-Shannon and Joseph “make a deal with the devil”, because they are promised that all their needs will be met and they’ll be rich beyond their wildest dreams, but ultimately lose and are left with nothing. Joseph, out of love for Shannon, decides to sacrifice everything he has left to save her and make sure she’s safe. What a beautiful picture of sacrificial love.
-Joseph has a dream where he sees his father and is reminded of his dreams of owning his own land. He’d forgotten. God is so good at speaking to us in ways that we can’t help but listen to Him, especially when we’ve closed our ears to Him and everything seems lost.
-Shannon and Joseph both think their dream is to own their own land, but they both come to realize that their true dream is actually a life together. They don’t realize this until they’ve got their chance at the land but risk losing each other. Sometimes God has to bring us to the end of ourselves and before we realize where our hearts’ desires truly lie.
Even though God isn’t really mentioned a whole lot in this movie, when I was rewatching it in preparation for writing this blog, God reminded me of this verse: Ps 37:4 “Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.”
It’s so good to know that our desires are important to God, and that He cares about us chasing our dreams and someday achieving them, because, after all, He’s the one that planted those dreams in us to begin with! So of course He wants to see them happen! What a good Father He is 🙂
What are your current dreams that you’re chasing? Or, what’s your favorite St Patrick’s Day movie? Drop it in the comments!
Links I Like
Far and Away soundtrack suite – a beautiful collection of some of the different pieces John Williams created for the score.
The Oklahoma Land Race scene – when Joseph and Shannon race for their land! This scene is so freakin’ EPIC!
“Book of Days” – The music video for the song by Enya that plays over the end credits. Oh, I do love me some Enya.
Joseph on horseback – https://fictionmachine.com/2017/03/21/review-far-and-away-1992/
Joseph and Shannon – https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104231/mediaviewer/rm1009896448/
Fighting joseph – https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104231/mediaviewer/rm3624252417/
Shannon with pitchfork – https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104231/mediaviewer/rm1290501376/