it’s a different kind of film from a different kind of era in film. it was a time when films were often about more ordinary people. films are more often about great people in extraordinary circumstances – from citizen kane and gone with the wind (there’s actually a reference to ashley wilkes in this film) to schindler’s list and lord of the rings. this is a film about an ordinary town and an ordinary and flawed woman who seizes an opportunity to make her and her community a better place.
the film begins with the line “ain’t no miracle being born” from the opening/closing song. throughout the film this is fleshed out in various ways all of which contribute to the idea that just living isn’t enough – you have to do something with yourself in order to be worthwhile. the first half of the film does very little to advance the major plot point (the unionization of the textile plant) of the film. rather, we see an exploration of the characters, their motivations, relationships to each other, etc., but very little time is spent on exploring the issues behind the proposed unionization. we briefly hear someone complain about not being able to take time off when they’re sick, we see one man die of a heart attack while on the job, and we see how management pits its workers against each other, but there isn’t much actual discussion of how the union will alleviate these problems. this element of the film is very underdeveloped and the film was a disappointment in that regard. none of this, though, takes away from the poignancy of sally field standing on the table silently holding up a sign which reads “UNION” and turning to her co-workers for solidarity. in this scene they all shut off their equipment and one can’t help but feel good about the power of unity. it’s the best scene in the film, but it may actually be reliant upon the film’s inadequate exploration of the actual issues behind unionization.
sally field is perfect for the role and she nails it. her complexion and figure give her a young look, but the lines under her eyes show how tired her character is: she’s a single mother in a dead end job, living with her parents in a small industrial town.
overall it’s a compelling story about working class people. it’s got a lot of strong performances headed up by field. it didn’t explore the unionization issue with adequate depth, but you could also argue that it’s much more a film about characters than workers’ issues.