• James Rutherford

'Far from Heaven': An Exquisite Drama Delving Under the Surface of 1950's-Era American Society


Movie poster for Far from Heaven (2003)

Far from Heaven (2003) is an exquisite American drama starring Julianne Moore as Cathy Whitaker, a temperate young housewife and mother living in suburban Connecticut circa 1957. Married to television advertising executive Frank Whitaker (Dennis Quaid), Cathy enjoys a tranquil lifestyle before Frank is arrested due to suspicious behavior within the underground gay bars of Hartford.


Frank denies any wrongdoing while describing his arrest as a misunderstanding, yet he continues to stay out late in the evenings to Cathy's chagrin. As her uncertainty grows, Cathy begins a casual friendship with her new groundskeeper Raymond (Dennis Haysbert)—a warm-hearted soul she is able to confide in with ease. Their association soon comes under the scrutiny of the surrounding community, however, with Cathy's friends and fellow mothers outright shunning her for befriending a black man.


Written and directed by celebrated auteur Todd Haynes (Velvet Goldmine, Carol), Far from Heaven is a melodramatic yet sincere depiction of a bygone era—equal parts pastoral and explicatory. Moore carries the storyline as the winsome Cathy, delivered to the screen as an open-eyed ingenue, while Haynes mines this idealized period of post-war Americana to expose underlying misbehavior and discrimination. By subverting social conventions and exposing inherent hypocrisies, he offers up a unique historic perspective on class, gender and race relations that resonates to this day.

 

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