Taglines: The story of an American family.
Samantha Hughes, a teenaged Kentucky girl, never knew her father, who died in Vietnam before her birth. Samantha lives with her uncle Emmett, who also served in Vietnam. Emmett hangs around with Tom, Earl, and Pete, three other Vietnam vets who, like Emmett, all have problems of one kind or another that relate to their war experiences.
Sam, as Samantha is known, becomes obsessed with finding out about her father and his experiences, but Emmett and the other vets don’t want to talk about the war. Sam pushes everyone to attend a dance honoring the town’s veterans, but Pete and Earl get into a fight, Emmett disappears, and Tom takes Sam home for an unsuccessful tryst. When Sam reads her father’s diary, she begins to understand what his life and death meant, and she and Emmett, with a trip to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, come at least temporarily to terms with the war in their lives.
In Country is a 1989 American drama film produced and directed by Norman Jewison, starring Bruce Willis and Emily Lloyd. The screenplay by Frank Pierson and Cynthia Cidre was based on the novel by Bobbie Ann Mason. The original music score was composed by James Horner. Willis earned a best supporting actor Golden Globe nomination for his role.
Much of the film was shot in Kentucky’s far-western Jackson Purchase, where the original author, Bobbie Ann Mason, grew up. Her home of Graves County, specifically its county seat of Mayfield, was the location for many scenes. The walk-in doctor’s office seen in the film is actually a dry cleaners which was renamed “Clothes Doctor” following its appearance in the film. Several other scenes were shot in the Purchase’s largest city of Paducah, particularly the scenes inside Emmett’s home.
To prepare for her role, Emily Lloyd stayed with a lawyer and his family in Paducah, Kentucky. In order to get into the mindset of a girl whose father has died, the young actress thought of the death of her paternal grandfather, Charles Lloyd Pack, a British actor to whom she was very close. Lloyd underwent training to speak with a Kentucky accent in the film.
The veterans in the dance sequence are all actual Vietnam vets as well and their real family members accompany them. Of the five major characters who are Vietnam veterans, only one, Earl, is played by an actual Vietnam veteran, Jim Beaver. Ken Jenkins, who plays Jim Holly (the organizer of the veteran’s dance), is the father of Daniel Jenkins, who plays Samantha’s father Dwayne in the Vietnam flashbacks.
Their casting in the film was purely coincidental. The commencement speaker was played by Don Young, the minister of a large Baptist church in Paducah, Kentucky. In an interview with The Paducah Sun, he said the speech had been written for him but joked that it was so good, he might “borrow” parts of it in future sermons.
In Country (1989)
Directed by: Norman Jewison
Starring: Emily Lloyd, Bruce Willis, Joan Allen, Kevin Anderson, John Terry, Peggy Rea, Judith Ivey, Stephen Tobolowsky, Jim Beaver, Richard Hamilton, Patricia Richardson
Screenplay by: Frank Pierson
Production Design by: Jackson De Govia
Cinematography by: Russell Boyd
Film Editing by: Antony Gibbs, Lou Lombardo
Costume Design by: Aggie Guerard Rodgers
Set Decoration by: Thomas L. Roysden
Art Direction by: John R. Jensen
Music by: James Horner
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date: September 29, 1989