Days of Heaven (1978)

days of heaven poster 1978 movie
9.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great looking movie

Low key story might not work for everyone

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Days of Heaven

Studio:  Paramount Pictures

Genre(s):   Drama

Release Date(s):  October 6, 1978

MPAA Rating:   PG

days of heaven brooke adams richard gere

Hey…I have a fantastic idea…trust me, nothing will go wrong

Bill (Richard Gere), his girlfriend Abby (Brooke Adams), and his young sister Linda (Linda Manz) are on the run after Bill accidentally killed his foreman in a fight in Chicago.  Hiding out on a wheat farm in Texas and posing as brother and sister, Bill sees potential financial gain when the ailing young farmer (Sam Shepard) takes an interest in Abby.  Encouraging her to begin a relationship, Bill learns that playing with hearts could be a dangerous game.

Written and directed by Terrence Malick, Days of Heaven is a romantic drama.  Following Malick’s Badlands in 1973, The film was received with mixed reviews upon its release and a poor box office return.  Since its release, the film has gained critical acclaim and often is classified as one of the “Best Of” from the time period.  The movie won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography with nominations for Best Costume Design, Best Sound, and Best Original Score.  Criterion released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #409), and it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2007.

days of heaven wheat fields linda manz

Just letting you know, lady…some bad crap’s going to go down

I had heard positive things about Days of Heaven, but never sought it out.  I love Badlands and Days of Heaven was Malik’s follow-up to the film.  Having finally seen Days of Heaven, I wish I had seen it earlier.

Days of Heaven is a rather simple film on the surface.  The plot of the film isn’t very deep:  a con artist has his girlfriend try to fleece a sick farmer, but the girl falls for the farmer leading to tragedy.  Despite this, there are nuances in the story that combine with strong acting to make it a good story.  The film is narrated by the young Linda who is more innocent but still already cynical toward the world which leads to an almost outsider perspective of events.

The cast is good.  Richard Gere is believable as the brash Bill who has a violent temper that frequently gets out of hand.  Brooke Adams is able to be both sympathetic when she is falling for Sam Shepherd but also cold enough to be seen as a survivor at the end.  Linda Manz beat out a lot of child stars at the time for the role and her freshness helps make her almost the opposite of Sam Shepherd wants to believe his romance is pure and real.

days of heaven richard gere locust swarm

Problems of Biblical proportions…

The visuals of Days of Heaven really soar.  The cinematography brings the lush land to life (though it doesn’t look much like Texas…it was shot in Canada).  Malick shot most of the movie during the “golden hour” which is a photography term for the light occurring right before sunset and right before sunrise.  The basis for the house was The House by the Railroad painting by Edward Hopper which also inspired the Psycho house in Hitchock’s masterpiece.  Scenes like the fire and the locust plague really make this feel like a pastoral painting and give it a real art feel.

Days of Heaven impressed me.  The storybook type tale worked for me especially with the narration by a younger character which gave it a bit of a To Kill a Mockingbird feel at points.  This combines with a strong cast and fantastic visuals which help propel the movie to greatness.  Days of Heaven is a film that should be sought out.  Malick did not return to directing until twenty years later with The Thin Red Line in 1998.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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