I am going to hold my hands up and say that this is not a film I really expected too much of. Mainly because this is a nearly two and a half hour long film where the DVD case is mostly taken up by Matthew McConaughey in a very early role. Nothing against him as an actor… now, but back then I am not a big fan. The fact that he has an important, yet very minor, role in the form of flashbacks is knowledge I wish I had a bit earlier.
Lone Star is a bit of a slow burn, but is one of those films that could have been an overblown melodrama in the wrong hands. Instead, you have an incredibly well written ensemble piece set in a Texan border county with a number of exceptionally well acted characters. At the centre is a murder mystery around a skeleton found in the desert and the sheriff who returns home to uncover the truth behind the murder and the truth behind his father, who is idolized by the county at large.
This murder mystery is just one of a number of separate plot threads telling the stories of the many residents of Rio county. It’s a film about representation and the ramifications of Texas’ complex history has to the modern day residents. White people claiming that because they won the wars, that the Mexican residents should not learn the complete truth in school. The many different stories of the Latinx residents, be they born there or having crossed the border in different capacities. There is also a good history lesson in the African-American residents and how their own history, and that of Native Americans have in some instances become intertwined by Texas’ unique position in relation to the rest of the USA.
In a number of ways, Lone Star is a Texian take on the many multi-stranded ensemble movies (like Happiness and Magnolia) you got in the 1990s and, much like those two examples, I really loved this movie. All the revelations and lessons that pile up in the final 15 minutes are perfect pay-offs for the first two hours and, honestly, it’s been a while since I last saw a film that used flashbacks as expertly in order to drive the narrative.