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UK: UIP (UK)
Cast: Joseph Fiennes, Elisabeth Shue, Sam Shepard, Dennis Hopper, Mary Stuart Masterson, Deborah Unger, Justin Chambers, Gil Johnson, Jake Weber
Director: Mehdi Norowzian
Countries: USA / UK
UK: 104 mins
UK Certificate: 18 contains strong language, sex and violence
UK Release Date: 12 March 2004
UK DVD Release Date: 27 October 2008
Mississippi. Stephen (33) is released from prison after fifteen years. He is met by his parole officer, Gil, who tells him about Vic's, the hotel/diner he will be working at; it is a difficult place but Stephen, as Gil advises him, simply has to endure it for a year or so.
Elsewhere in Mississippi, we meet Mary Bloom (late 20s). At first glance, Mary leads a very comfortable life with a beautiful 4 year-old daughter Isabelle and a hard-working husband, Ben, on track to become the head of his University's English Department. It's soon obvious that Ben devotes much more to his career than to his family and that Mary is too educated and too intelligent to be satisfied with an isolated domestic life.
Stephen, reserved and clearly quite intelligent, meets Vic, the stringent proprietor of the place, Horace and Jack, two mean regulars, Louis, a black ex-convict who also works there and Caroline, a meek much abused waitress.
Stephen calls his lawyer, Thomas J Kingsley and asks him if he received all the packages he sent him. He has and read them as well. Tom thinks Stephen's books are brilliant and that they should be published. Stephen refuses, insisting that he is still working on his last book and the series won't make sense without it.
Ruth Livingston, a busybody faculty wife, visits Mary and devastates her with the suggestion that Ben is having an affair. A late phone call and some affectionate, even suggestive, exchanges between Ben and a female graduate student at a faculty dinner party don't help. The next day her life is simply intolerable to her, she explains this to Ryan Eames, who's doing some work on their house. He, taking advantage of her confused state, seduces her. That night, Mary, drunk and crazed, confronts Ben about his alleged affair. Ben earnestly denies it and insists on immediately confronting Ruth Livingston about her lies. They drive to the Livingston's, where Ruth essentially admits that she lied. Mary is wrought with guilt for not trusting Ben and for her own infidelity. She fires Ryan from his job as a housepainter.
8 months later, Mary is pregnant and more committed to Ben and her family than ever but Ben and Isabelle are fatally killed in a car accident. Traumatized, Mary goes into premature labor, losing her faith in life, God and everything in between. She is convinced that her newborn, whom she names Leopold Bloom, after a character she disliked in Joyce's Ulysses, is a sign of her punishment for cheating on Ben. Mary forces herself to hate Leo as much as she can-denying herself, and the hapless child, any maternal love.
Stephen, meanwhile, has been enduring his stay at Vic's. He sees that Vic, Caroline and Louis are powerless against Horace, the sinister bully of the place. He finds solace in his writing and correspondence with an as yet unidentified boy.
Mary keeps Ryan around, almost as further punishment to herself, and he behaves violently, constantly mistreating her. In school, Leo and the other children are given an assignment to write letters to prisoners. Leo takes the assignment very seriously; this is the first time we see awareness of his mother's weaknesses and his own predicament.
After eight months of dutifully working at Vic's, Stephen also stands up against the menacing Horace, urging Caroline to stop tolerating his abuse of her. Caroline thanks him and tells him no one has ever done such a thing for her before. Stephen tells her that he's needed to be able to do that all his life. He tried to once, only to make a terrible mess of it.
In the Bloom neighborhood, we see Stephen (15 years earlier), walking down the street. He's 18 years old. Inside the Bloom house, Mary and Ryan are fighting. Ryan nearly beats her to death after she tells him that Leopold is his son. At that moment, Stephen walks in on their fight, just as Ryan is about to hit Mary hard. Stephen, trying to protect her, hits Ryan hard, killing him. Mary tells him that he just killed his father, and, at that point, we discover Stephen is Leopold Bloom.