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The Trip to Bountiful, Directed by Peter Masterson

Island Pictures, December 25, 1985 (US)

Screenplay: Horton Foote

Starring: Geraldine Page, John Heard, Carlin Glynn, and Rebecca De Mornay

Mrs. Carrie Watts
(Geraldine Page): It’s come to me what to do. I’ll go on. That much has come to me. I’ll go on. I feel my strength and my purpose strong within me. I’ll go on. I will go to Bountiful. I will walk the twelve miles if I have to.

But you can’t. You can’t go back. Oft-quoted, oft-repeated: You can’t go home again. It is a universal theme that strikes a chord so deep within the majority that the Thomas Wolfe title has long since graduated into a colloquialism.

Carrie: But I’m going, you understand that? You’ll see. This is a free country and I’m going to tell him that, and no sheriff or king or president is going to keep me from going to Bountiful!

But you can’t. You can’t go back. You can’t go home again. There is no hope of reviving the past no matter how persistent you are or how frequent the attempts.

Ludie Watts (John Heard): Mama, I wanna stop remembering. It doesn’t do any good remembering.

So why the refusal to let it go? Why is the past a dream unwilling to fade even now, long after it wakes up from its present-day slumber? Attempts to dig deeper to pin it down to find a reason that makes better sense lead here, to that same old intersection of past and present. You begin to wonder whether it is the equation that has been oversimplified. Why is it, exactly, that you can’t go home again? It is easy to understand that you can’t relive the past and you grasp how increasingly difficult it is becoming to locate the driftwood of memories that have floated away, but is there more? Perhaps, a new conclusion. An edited one.

Perhaps we can’t go home again because in fact we’ve never really left at all.

Despite all the travels far and wide, so many miles from the starting gate, the song remains suspiciously the same. In the end, there is simply no way to distance the emotional connection—good, bad, indifferent—conjured up from that place called home. Home sweet home. The physical has nothing over the emotional. Only something so frustratingly close but forever out of reach can facilitate such a desperate yearning and perpetual pull of the heartstrings. The walls are made of brick and are covered in cobwebs. Try as we might, attempts to replay the past simply cannot coax the memories back to life.

The dichotomies of life will just as soon rip out hearts as they will leave a trail of contentedness that stretches to the moon. You can’t go home again even though you never really left. What a bitch that is! Or, off in the opposite direction, there exists a burning desire to travel and explore new roads of discovery only to find yourself homesick, stuck in the spotlight of all you can never leave behind. Strange dichotomies indeed. They leave you dizzy, twisted and turned all upside down. Suitcases overflow with an awkward mix of melon collie, exuberance, sadness, and hope. Suspicious little contradictions—joy and grief—are caught in the crosshairs.

Carrie: Nobody needs to be ashamed of crying. We’ve all dampened a pillow. I know I have.

A certainty remains. For every beginning there is a middle and an end and it is the end where we inevitably find ourselves, too late, or never too late.

Carrie: Goodbye, Bountiful. Bye.