Cry, the Beloved Country is James Earl Jones's magnum opus, a film in which he gets to really stretch his range as an actor, even though the film doesn't give him much room to do so. The movie is the story of aging Zulu priest Stephen Kumalo (Jones) and his search for his sister and son in 1946 Johannesburg. A stranger in a strange land, Kumalo soon finds his country ways unsuited for life in the bustling city, and he is victimized by thieves almost as soon as he arrives.
Kumalo finds his sister soon enough: she's a prostitute in the seediest section of town. Finding son Absalom is a different matter altogether, and a convoluted investigation finally leads him to his son's life of crime, a pregnant girlfriend, and the sort-of-accidental murder of a prominent, white, social reformer. To make matters worse, this man is the son of Kumalo's wealthy neighbor, James Jarvis (Richard Harris). Kumalo becomes wrapped up in his son's trial, but more interestingly, attempts to reconcile things with Jarvis.
Harris and Jones are amazing when on screen together, but this is all too rare, as they interact in only three brief scenes. The rest of the picture is very beautiful, but its deliberate, plodding pace seems to drag the movie on for an eternity. There's no big surprise about what's going to happen, but the sheer heart that Jones, Harris, and director Darrell James Roodt have imbued to the film give it an uncommon bouyance and it manages to rise above its flawed pacing.
The message of Cry, the Beloved Country, that compassion and forgiveness are crucial if society is to develop to the next level, is almost completely foreign in cinema today. And it is that compassion that makes this picture so oddly memorable.
Run time: 106 mins
In Theaters: Friday 15th December 1995
Box Office Worldwide: $676.5 thousand
Distributed by: Miramax
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Fresh: 11 Rotten: 2
IMDB: 6.9 / 10
Director: Darrell James Roodt
Producer: Anant Singh
Screenwriter: Ronald Harwood
Starring: James Earl Jones as Rev. Stephen Kumalo, Charles S. Dutton as John Kumalo, Jack Robinson as Ian Jarvis, Tsholofelo Wechoemang as Child, Ramalao Makhene as Ramalao Makhene, Richard Harris as James Jarvis, Dolly Rathebe as Mrs. Kumalo, Jennifer Steyn as Mary Jarvis, Ian Roberts as Evans, David Clatworthy as Clerk of the court