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…
Release Year: 1993
Rating: 5.9/10 (9,821 voted)
Stars: Richard Gere, Jodie Foster, Bill Pullman
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 imposter. Laurel herself is unsure, but willing to take the man into her home, and perhaps later into her heart…
Writers: Daniel Vigne, Jean-Claude Carrière
John Robert 'Jack' Sommersby
James Earl Jones
Judge Barry Conrad Issacs
R. Lee Ermey
She knew his face. His touch. His voice. She knew everything about him… But the truth.
Release Date: 5 February 1993
Filming Locations: Appomattox, Virginia, USA
Did You Know?
Original writer Nicholas Meyer walked off the production when Warner Brothers wouldn't let him direct his screenplay. Sarah Kernochan was drafted in to rewrite the script and was somewhat bemused to see that it was an Americanized version of
The Return of Martin Guerre. Warners denied this in a rather obvious attempt not to have to buy the remake rights, but Kernochan insisted that they do before continuing as they weren't fooling anyone. Warners eventually relented, and also gave Meyer story credit.
The fiddle being played at the homecoming dance is fitted with a chin piece, which was not used until the 20th century.
[Laurel is pregnant]
I told you to use the fertilizer in the fields, Jack.
More believable than generally given credit for.
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
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
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
A haunting, well-told tale for those who appreciate depth of character over
high-paced action for its own sake.