Starring: Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard
Director: Terence Mallick
Running Time: 94 mins
Days Of Heaven is an American film about a poor worker who falls in love with a woman, but convinces her to marry their rich but dying boss so that they can take his fortune.
Days Of Heaven is a film with an undeniable elegance and dramatic power throughout, complete with a passionate tale of love and rivalry, which is what makes it an impressive watch. However, director Terence Mallick’s style is such that the film is often a little languishing in its delivery of that drama, struggling to really hit home with a story that could have had even more dramatic impact, and instead getting a little too bogged down when trying to keep the plot in motion.
Let’s start with the positives, however, the biggest of which comes in the form of the film’s striking appearance and atmosphere. Above all, the portrayal of hard labour is mesmerising throughout, as Mallick gives the setting a strongly gritty vibe that feels dirty and tiring, bringing more tension and drama to the workers’ mindsets, further playing into the growing tension between the landowner (Sam Shepard) and our main man (Richard Gere).
What’s more is that the film’s poignant score lends a really strong emotional depth to a story that, while engrossing, wouldn’t at first seem the sort to really hit you where it hurts. In all truth, while the film doesn’t ultimately prove an exceptionally powerful piece, the music, the visuals, and the overall atmosphere lend it an elegance and dramatic intensity that make a lot more out of the story than I expected at first.
The performances from Richard Gere and Sam Shepard are also a point for praise, as the two go about portraying a particularly intense rivalry, and yet there’s never a moment of melodrama from either, as the majority of their time onscreen together is spent staring one another down as they do battle over one woman, rather than any theatrics that would have easily taken away from the dramatic intensity of the story at hand.
With that said, I have to say that Days Of Heaven, despite its impressive and often poignant vibe, isn’t the world’s most enthralling film, something that comes mostly down to the way in which director Terence Mallick portrays the story at hand.
As impressive as the visuals and overall atmosphere are, Mallick goes about the film in a very (somewhat overly) patient manner, not allowing the real drama to come to the surface until very late on. On the one hand, it serves well to keep the tension of that central rivalry bubbling nicely throughout, but on the other, it makes the film’s opening half a less than exhilarating watch, and doesn’t give you enough depth of character or story in the first half to really grab your attention.
Mallick’s style is an acquired taste, and it always has been, so if you’re a fan of the unique director, then I’m sure that you’ll be impressed by this film, but for me, Days Of Heaven, although strong and striking in many regards, wasn’t quite what I felt it could have been, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.4 overall.