Some time during the Truman Administration, the yearning to see her old hometown before she dies overcomes a widow lady named Carrie Watts (Geraldine Page). It is understandable: she lives with her dispirited son (John Heard) and his bossy wife (Carlin Glynn) in a cramped city apartment. The arrangement is getting on everyone's nerves.
One day Carrie slips away and ventures back to her roots near the Texas Gulf Coast to discover what the viewer will have long suspected: the town of Bountiful no longer exists. The land there is used up, and the world has moved on. We are left to contemplate a modest triumph of the human spirit.
Horton Foote's screenplay, derived from a legendary teleplay and a theatrical adaptation of it more than three decades ago, is all fragile moods and memories. Director Peter Masterson's style, however, is crushingly realistic. And Page is overwhelming in the worst sense of the word, a steamroller of tics, tricks and mannerisms. She is being mentioned for an Oscar nomination--it would be her eighth--and since she is doing enough acting to fill at least that many pictures right here, she may get it. That her highly theatrical style has almost nothing to do with the craft of movie acting will probably not harm her cause: academy members traditionally like to see what they are voting for. The irony is that it is still not enough to fill out Foote's essentially empty drama. --By Richard Schickel