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Away from Home, Far from the Same

In: Film and Music

Submitted By ellefennema
Words 1396
Pages 6
Far and Away is a romantic drama with western influences. The 1993 film, directed by Ron Howard, is the story of two people immigrating to the United States in the hopes of having different lives. The main characters, Joseph Donnelly and Shannon Christie come from two very different worlds. Joseph lives on a farm and is barely making enough money to pay the rent, where Shannon lives on acres of land with horses to ride and butlers to boss around. As it turns out, Shannon’s father is the landlord of the land Joseph and his family lives on. When they are evicted Joseph goes to the Christie house declaring revenge on them. This is where he meets Shannon. She tells him that she is not going to end up like her mother and that she is going to America for the free land they have. This captures Joseph’s attention. Since Joseph is poor, Shannon pays for his boat ticket but makes him her serving boy during the trip. Once they land in Boston, Shannon’s silver is stolen, the only form of money she has. This forces the pair to find jobs. For Shannon this is harder than it is for Joseph. Most of the movie is set in Boston developing the characters and slowly transforming them before they go west. Far and Away shows how the west purifies and transforms people in order to achieve the opportunities it has to offer. Through the entirety of the film the characters’ class status, attitudes, style and surroundings change as they get closer to the west. By the time they get there the movie is ending and the characters have done a 360 degree transformation.
Shannon gets her silver stolen as soon as she gets off the boat in Boston which initiates her transformation. She went from having money and the ability to buy whatever she needed to get to Wyoming to having nothing at all. This is something that is very new to her. It is Joseph that takes action finding them somewhere to live and work. Because Joseph is lower class he is able to make arrangements for him and Shannon with people like him. If it was not for him Shannon would still be crying in the streets of Boston. Shannon’s sudden drop in status is not sitting well with her. She refuses to live in a brothel and work at a chicken factory. She spends all the money she makes on new dresses and things that will help her keep up appearances. It is not until Joseph tells her that he almost has enough to leave for Wyoming does she realize that she will never have any land of her own if she keeps buying dresses. At this point she starts working as a stage dancer in the bar Joseph fights at. However, she still has the mindset that she is better than everyone else by the way she disregards the men trying to put money in her thigh high socks. She has a hard time adjusting to her new position in society, but, with the help of Joseph, Shannon starts to become a different women.
When Joseph started fighting for money Shannon did not want him to. When she hears that someone betting two-hundred dollars on him Shannon suddenly changes her mind, she knows that the money is the answer to how they will get to Oklahoma. She changes her attitude about the boxing when it benefits her agenda. When Joseph loses and the bar owner steals all of their money, Joseph and Shannon are thrown out of the brothel. Having nowhere to go they break into an abandoned house to get warm. Joseph wants Shannon to act like it is her house and he is her servant to make her feel more comfortable. She however wants them to act like husband and wife and share a meal together. In this scene you can see that their attitudes toward each other begin to change. When they are about to share an intimate moment together the homeowners get back. Despite his efforts to protect Shannon she gets shot in the back as they escape the house. Joseph brings Shannon to the Christies, newly arrived from Ireland. He decides Shannon will be better cared for by them and leaves despite his obvious feelings for her. Not only is their attitudes about their surroundings and current situation changing, but also the attitude they have towards each other. Joseph no longer believes that Shannon is a stuck up rich daddy’s girl, but the product of someone who has never had the chance to make her own choices and live with the consequences. Shannon on the other hand sees that even though Joseph has never had as much money as she, he is still a person and deserves to be treated like one. Even though they don’t confess to each other until the end of the film, Joseph and Shannon have gone from mutual disregard to falling in love.
As the film progresses the sets and costumes change and evolve with the characters. When the movie’s opening scene begins the screen is filled with the lush green hill of Ireland. The music is light and happy, native to the country. Joseph Donnelly appears on screen attempting to farm a patch of land near his house. His clothes are worn and old but there are not visible holes or tears depicting that although he doesn’t have a lot of money he is still able to put clothes on his back.The lightness of the sky and the music shows that Joseph is rich with intangible things like his family and freedom. Later on when we are introduced to Shannon the sky is grey and there is fog rolling in. The house that is shown as her’s is stone and very large. Even though only her home is shown it is implied that she is stone like in her personality: cold and hard. When we see her for the first time she is riding a horse in what looks to be a very expensive satin blue riding dress. When Joseph and Shannon arrive in Boston the dock is very crowded and the cobblestone is wet as if it had just rained. The city looks dark and dirty. The surroundings changing forces the transformation and adaptation of the two characters. For a short time after they landed Shannon tries to hang onto the way that she dresses, but eventually she starts to wear more plain clothes and more simple hair styles. Joseph changes the opposite way very briefly. He becomes a well known fighter at a bar and with his sudden increase in wealth he beings to buy hats, which show class and wealth, as well as nicer over coats and clothes. At one instance he throws Shannon into the bath because she wouldn’t say that she likes his hat, there for not acknowledging his wealth. He soon finds that in order to have enough money to get to Oklahoma he could not keep buying these things thus changing back to his simpler clothes. The whole time the pair are in Boston not one day is sunny. Ron Howard chose to have it this way to show that Boston is a place for stripping down the characters’ old lives and starting fresh. Boston is where all of the transformations happen and once they are complete Shannon and Joseph finally make the move west. Their characters could not move on until they were changed enough to survive in the west. It was their desire for land in the west that set the transformations in motion.
The west is said to have mythological properties, one of them being the ability of transformation. In order to survive in the west an individual must change and adapt to the harsh surroundings. This myth of the west is shown best in film. If you look closely enough any film has this property. A character moves to a new place and slowly becomes someone else through different events. Far and Away (1993) is no exception. From the literal move west from Ireland to Boston then again to Oklahoma to not arriving in the final destination until fully transformed; this film shows through the changes in status, attitude, style and surroundings how impacting the west can be.

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