An exposition on honor, character, manliness, and romance.
One of my all-time favorite movies is Open Range, starring Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall. Full disclosure: this is a long movie, and, for the most part, a fairly slow movie. But if you want a movie that shows what real men used to be like, if you want a clean movie that never glorifies something that is sinful, if you want a movie that deals well with the importance of duty and honor — watch Open Range. I’m telling you, this is a top-quality movie.
Open Range takes place in the late 1800s, when free grazing cattle was going out of style and ranchers were taking over the West and pushing the free grazers further west. The two protagonists of the story, Charlie and Boss, are free-grazers (along with two others, a man and a boy) who happen on a town where they stop for supplies.
When their partner Mose doesn’t return from a supply run for a few days, Charlie and Boss go back into town to find him. They find that the men who work for Baxter, a wealthy rancher, have beaten Mose half to death and locked him in jail (Baxter basically owns the town’s marshal). Charlie and Boss get Mose out of jail and take him to the doctor’s, where Sue, whom they believe to be the doctor’s wife, takes care of Mose in the doctor’s absence. Charlie is immediately attracted to Sue, but does away with the thought as quickly as it comes since he believes her to be married. Later however, Charlie and Boss find out that Sue is in fact the doctor’s sister.
Shortly thereafter, Baxter’s men ambush the free-grazers’ camp, kill Mose, and shoot the boy, Button, in the head and leave him for dead. Charlie and Boss decide to bring justice to the town, and take Button back to the doctor’s to be taken care of while they “take care of the marshal and Baxter [themselves].” Sue and Charlie are attracted to each other, but both seem to think they are not worthy of the other. They learn about each other’s character, and fall in love with each other’s hearts. Sue sees how Charlie respects Boss, and cares for Mose and Button; he also daringly protects Sue when one of the bad guys takes her as a hostage. At the end of the movie, Charlie comes back to Sue, expresses his love for her, and proposes (in a delightfully straightforward, non-romantic way). When Sue says she’s “not a girl anymore,” but an aging woman, Charlie simply reaffirms his love for her.
What I love about this love story is how little of a “love story” there is in this movie. You know it’s happening as you watch the movie, there are two or three scenes where they actually address their feelings for each other (though delicately), but other than that, it is not a focus of the movie. The focus is on the same thing Charlie and Sue were focusing on – the character. They were interested in each other from the start, but when they caught a glimpse of the heart, that’s when they fell in love. They respected each other; they saw the courage and honor in each other; they loved each other’s character.
Today, even among Christians, the focus is so much and so often on the outward appearance. But what really matters is the heart and soul of a person – their character. That’s what should catch our eye; and that’s what should hold our attention.