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Sommersby (1993)

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A farmer returns home from the Civil War, but his wife begins to suspect that the man is an impostor.

Director:

Jon Amiel

Writers:

Daniel Vigne (film The Return of Martin Guerre), Jean-Claude Carrière (film The Return of Martin Guerre) | 4 more credits »
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2 wins. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard Gere ... Jack
Jodie Foster ... Laurel
Lanny Flaherty ... Buck
Wendell Wellman ... Travis
Bill Pullman ... Orin
Brett Kelley Brett Kelley ... Little Rob
William Windom ... Reverend Powell
Clarice Taylor ... Esther
Frankie Faison ... Joseph
R. Lee Ermey ... Dick Mead (as Ronald Lee Ermey)
Richard Hamilton ... Doc Evans
Karen Kirschenbauer ... Mrs. Evans
Carter McNeese Carter McNeese ... Storekeeper Wilson
Dean Whitworth Dean Whitworth ... Tom Clemmons
Stan Kelly Stan Kelly ... John Green
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Storyline

Set in the south of the United States just after the Civil War, Laurel Sommersby is just managing to work the farm without her husband Jack, believed killed in the Civil War. By all accounts, Jack Sommersby was not a pleasant man, thus when he returns, Laurel has mixed emotions. It appears that Jack has changed a great deal, leading some people to believe that this is not actually Jack but an impostor. Laurel herself is unsure, but willing to take the man into her home, and perhaps later into her heart... Written by Murray Chapman <muzzle@cs.uq.oz.au>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

She knew his face. His touch. His voice. She knew everything about him... But the truth.

Genres:

Drama | Mystery | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for sensuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

France | USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

5 February 1993 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Stranger Within See more »

Filming Locations:

Appomattox, Virginia, USA See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$8,104,624, 7 February 1993

Gross USA:

$50,081,992

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$140,081,992
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color (DuArt)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Steven Reuther, one of the producers behind the project commented about the casting of Gere and Foster: "A lot of people questioned us about this coupling. And it was a gamble, because there are the obvious romantic leading females, and Jodie really is not one of them. Also, I don't think anyone had ever seen Jodie in a period costume. But once we got her in the period clothes and the hair, it was like, 'How could there have been a question?' I think that part of why she was attracted to the character was because it was something she had never done before." See more »

Goofs

The fiddle being played at the homecoming dance is fitted with a chin piece, which was not used until the 20th century. See more »

Quotes

Laurel Sommersby: You are not Jack Sommersby, so why do you keep going on pretending that you are?
John Robert 'Jack' Sommersby: How do you know I'm not?
Laurel Sommersby: I know because...
John Robert 'Jack' Sommersby: How do you know?
Laurel Sommersby: I know because...
John Robert 'Jack' Sommersby: How do you know?
Laurel Sommersby: I know because I never loved him the way that I love you.
John Robert 'Jack' Sommersby: Now Laurel tell me, from the bottom of your heart. Am I your husband?
Laurel Sommersby: Yes, you are.
See more »

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User Reviews

 
More believable than generally given credit for.
19 March 2002 | by cada123See all my reviews

In events occuring before the time line in the story, Homer meets and gets to know his double, Jack Sommersby, in a Civil War prison. When Jack dies, Homer decides (for reasons barely hinted at) to impersonate Jack and take up his life where it had left off before the war six years earlier.

Viewers who have trouble accepting this story's basic premise and its subplots must not understand denial, the strongest defense mechanism of all. Laurel believes the returning soldier to be her missing husband because she wants to -- as does her son, and indeed the whole town (with a few menacing exceptions). This new guy is nicer than the other one. He is good to his wife, his kid, and his poor struggling neighbors, inspiring them all to work together to save the community at large from certain starvation if things do not change. In short, they all *need* this Jack Sommersby; therefore, he must *be* Jack Sommersby.

When folks are in denial -- does anybody not believe in mass hysteria? -- discrepancies are often overlooked, and reality is suspended. If that is hard to swallow, then consider that some folks were well aware of Homer's impersonation (if not his true identity), but chose to ignore it because it was in their best interests to do so.

The courtroom situation is another area where viewers have remarked on non-reality. But this may be chalked up to historical artifact. With today's high levels of movie/TV courtroom drama, and even genuine courtroom TV, this century's viewing audiences are far more sophisticated than the actual participants of court proceedings of the mid-19th Century, even among many lawyers and judges of the era. I had no trouble believing the courtroom of a small, largely uneducated community might have gone just the way it did in this movie... ...except for one thing, where all belief is suspended: the black judge, presiding over a southern courtroom, just after the Civil War. If there actually were any black judges in existence then, my guess would be that, like the few practicing black MD's, they were restricted to cases involving blacks, Native Americans, etc -- and not the trial of a white (and formerly rich) landowner.

Yet this plot device does not get in the way of my enjoyment of the movie over all. The judge strives mightily to be impartial, even with those townspeople who would not be so with him. Their rabid hatred of his race cries out for justice; therefore, the judge appears to provide it, with almost comic relief, precisely at a point when the tension demands it.

A haunting, well-told tale for those who appreciate depth of character over high-paced action for its own sake.


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