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Sarah, Plain and Tall

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Sarah, Plain and Tall is a heartwarming historical drama telefilm that aired from CBS in 1991. The film boasts a remarkable cast, namely Glenn Close, Christopher Walken and Lexi Randall who inject life and authenticity into the small-scale intimate tale set in the picturesque landscapes of the early 20th century American Midwest.

The film is based on Patricia MacLachlan’s award-winning children's novel published in 1985. The storyline revolves around a Midwestern widower named Jacob Witting, portrayed by the legendary actor Christopher Walken. Jacob, a Kansas farmer, is left with two adorable children, Anna and Caleb, after his wife's untimely demise during the birth of their youngest, Caleb. Little Caleb, unconsciously naive, yearns for a maternal figure in his life. Anna, the older and wiser sibling, only retains fragmented memories of her mother. Jacob is painfully aware of the desolate and incomplete family picture and decides to advertise for a wife in the newspaper.

The film welcomes Glenn Close's character, Sarah Wheaton, an independent and unconventional woman hailing from Maine, as she responds to Jacob's advert with a simple description: 'Sarah, plain and tall.' As the titular character, Close brilliantly portrays the spinster from Maine with her fiery spirit and grace. She decides to visit Jacob and his children under a temporary arrangement, assessing if she could fit into the family and the vastly different Kansas lifestyle.

As the story develops, their tentative relationship evolves; the scenes unfolding with a masterful display of chemistry between Close and Walken. The dynamic between Sarah and the children is another focal point upon which the plot thickens. Sarah, who styles herself as 'plain and tall', is nevertheless imbued with refreshing whimsy that captivates the children, especially young Caleb. Lexi Randall, who plays Anna, delivers a striking performance of a young girl perched precariously on the edge of adolescence, grappling with the sense of loss and the prospect of a new mother figure.

A significant portion of the film focuses on the stark contrast between the lush, bountiful environment of coastal Maine and the bleak, simplistic life of the Kansas prairies. Sarah’s struggle in adjusting to this novel environment and the starkly different lifestyle imparts depth to the film’s narrative.

Directed by Glenn Jordan, Sarah, Plain and Tall excels in balancing the nuanced performances with robust storytelling. One of the key factors that make the film so enticing is its depiction of human relationships and emotional landscapes with a generous dose of warmth and credibility. The characters are not unidimensional. Instead, they grow, change, cope with their losses and uncertainties, and above all, they persevere.

The direction beautifully captures the charm of rustic 1900s rural America, and the film doesn't shy away from depicting the harsh realities of the early frontier lifestyle; a stark departure from the typically romanticized Hollywood fascination with the period. The cinematography unfolds numerous panoramic vistas of sprawling fields, endless skies, quiet family meals evoking a sense of tranquillity and austerity, which is characteristic of the film’s setting.

Supported by a subtle and soulful music score, the film subtly transports the viewers to an era past without grandeur or extravagance but via the simplicity and earnestness of storytelling. Despite the absence of action-based dramatic elements, the film manages to hold its viewers’ interest by its sheer authentic representation of conflicts and resolutions.

Sarah, Plain and Tall is not just a historic drama; it is a highly emotional narrative around family, love, acceptance and belonging. The heart-tugging storyline twined with the immaculate performances of its talented cast makes it a worthwhile watch. Especially, a brilliant portrayal by Glenn Close, who, while defining Sarah as plain and tall, brings forth a character that is anything but plain. This film is a testament to the classic art of storytelling where human relationships serve as the true heroes in the underlying narrative.

Sarah, Plain and Tall is a Drama, Kids & Family, Romance, TV Movie movie released in 1991. It has a runtime of 98 min.. Critics and viewers have rated it moderate reviews, with an IMDb score of 7.3..

Glenn Jordan
Glenn Close, Christopher Walken, Lexi Randall
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