No Country For Old Men

It’s been a tumultuous 11 days for the nation, and for we, the people. I watch the news – things are happening quickly – there are many raw emotions: rancor, agitation and anxiety. Every time there’s a news development, I can’t get out of my head a particular movie and dialogue from it.

That movie is the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men with Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, et al. There are many memorable scenes, for me they all involve Tommy Lee Jones’ character, Sherriff Ed Tom Bell. His weathered-faced affect throughout is mesmerizing. It is his point of view that we as viewers watch events play out. There’s one scene where Bell goes to visit a good friend and colleague from law enforcement, Ellis, an old guy who is wheelchair bound. He had been shot in the line of duty years before. Ellis lives out in the middle of nowhere. Bell goes to see him to commiserate, as a touchstone to how things were and how they are now — to get a handle on things. The scene is deftly acted, written, and directed. It’s minimal which makes is so powerful. Bell and Ellis talk around things, or they touch upon them and pull away. Then, Ellis says, “This country is hard on people.”

That’s the line that keeps coming back to me. I am not sure why. It’s the way he says it; there’s deep meaning in those simple six words. For all the good, and there is, for all the freedom, and for all the rough edges — what Ellis says is true. He goes on to say, “You can’t stop what’s coming, it ain’t all waiting on you. That’s vanity.” He’s talking about that moment, trying to stop the relentless killing machine played by Bardem, but he’s also referring to “Life” — specifically here.

They talk about Bell’s imminent retirement, the winding down of things for him, while the past keeps thrusting itself into his present. The final scene is amazing. It is a domestic conversation between Bell and his wife Loretta (Tess Harper). Bell relates two dreams he had, both involving his father. The camera holds on him as he tells her the dreams, and he has that distant thousand-yard stare. The last line in the movie is, “And then I woke up.” The screen goes to black as we hear the kitchen clock ticking.

Clare Irwin

3 thoughts on “No Country For Old Men

  1. I did look at your blog. I love it! I just took another look—No Country for Old Men is a real favorite of mine! What an incredible movie! A really powerful study of the nature of evil.

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