Man, 1994 was a good year for Brad Pitt. He followed up Louis in Interview with the Vampire by playing another self-loathing hottie in Legends of the Fall.
Along with Pitt, Aidan Quinn and Henry Thomas play the Ludlow brothers Tristan, Alfred, and Samuel. The boys were raised by their father, Colonel William Ludlow (Anthony Hopkins), in the wilds of Montana at the start of the 20th century.
Tristan is wild and more at home with the Cree Native Americans than in civilized society. Alfred, the eldest, follows all the rules. And Samuel is the baby, doted on by his older brothers.
Against their father’s wishes—who disavows the government he once served over its treatment of Native Americans—Samuel and Alfred enlist to fight in World War I. Tristan has no interest in the war, but goes along after promising both his father and Samuel’s fiancé Susannah (Julia Ormond) that he would protect Samuel.
When Samuel is brutally killed in front of Tristan’s eyes, the Ludlow family is never the same.
Tristan blames himself, and for many years nothing can soothe his torment. Not his slaughter of the German soldiers who killed his brother, or long voyages on ships, or dangerous hunting trips in far off lands.
Not coming home.
And not the love of Susannah, who had sincere feelings for Samuel but a desperate desire for Tristan.
The tragedy of the film is that everyone acts in good faith—the Colonel loves his sons, Susannah cannot help loving Tristan even after she marries Alfred, and Alfred tries to do everything right but can never measure up to Tristan in the eyes of his father or his wife.
No one can hurt you like the ones you love the most, even when—especially when—they don’t mean to.
It’s got beautiful cinematography of Montana, unforgettable characters, and it illuminates the primal nature of the sibling relationship—its love, jealousy, protectiveness, competition, resentment, and playfulness.
But above all the unbreakable bond of blood.
It is still one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.
This is part of my Movies I’m Grateful For series, running daily through the month of November.
Other films include: Splash | New Moon | The Lucky One | Thelma and Louise | Katy Perry: Part of Me | Crazy Rich Asians | Under the Tuscan Sun | Terminator 2 | Moulin Rouge! | How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days | Practical Magic | Schindler’s List | Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol | Stardust | The Man in the Moon | The Others | Little Women | Cruella | Sliding Doors | Far and Away | The Magdalene Sisters | The Heat | The Last Five Years | Shakespeare In Love | Erin Brockovich | The Bear | Braveheart | Interview with the Vampire |