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Lonesome Dove (1989) (TV Mini-series)   rating

Review: written 2008

Aged Perfectly, and worth revisiting – just like its characters.

 Lonesome Dove (1989) (TV Mini-series)

One of the great Westerns, albeit this time on the small screen not the large, this is a movie about aging with decency. And even while it’s a move about the characters aging, this is also a pivotal time for the genre of the Western itself, predicting the rise of the revisionist Westerns (Dances with Wolves, Unforgiven et al) at a time when no-one was interested in Westerns at all. As such, the message of growing old in the face of adversity while keeping values intact is striking and as relevant as ever.

So what makes it work? First, the epic scope of Larry McMurty's book which fits 6 hours of television so much better than it would have squeezed into a theatrical movie. It breathes, takes its time and introduces characters in what at first feels a long drawn out way, but as the series progresses we thank it for giving us this time to get to know them. As the cattle drive that propels the characters and story forward proceeds North, the events genuinely matter to us, thanks to a pitch perfect script.

Then there is the acting - Robert DuVall will surely forever be Gus.. and Tommy Lee Jones was near unknown when he was picked for this role which he plays to perfection, especially in the final episode when he takes his hardest ever journey, back to Lonesome Dove. Not just these two, but Danny Glover, Diane Lane, and smaller roles by Chris Cooper, D.B. Sweeney, Robert Urich and others all exist in three dimensions, and all serve to create a real picture of the cowboys lifestyle.

Not least, there is the cinematography and music, both of which complement each other by never being showy but existing to provide a perfect setting for this character study.

It might seem a tad long - I know I thought so when seeing it at a younger age, but certainly not now... so if its fast paced action you want, go elsewhere - but for an affecting and perfectly acted exploration of dignity, values, romance and courage, switch on and lose yourself in Gus and Woodrow's world.

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