News Of The World is about Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, who as he says and I quote “would read the news to anyone with 10 cents and time to hear.” It’s a unique and fascinating proposition. Considering it was somewhere around 1870 and not everybody knew how to read and also the newspapers wouldn’t have been easily accessible, Captain Kidd often had a huge audience to cater to. The civil war had ended a few years back but the country was still fighting to get back on its feet. There was evident unrest. A state of tension did persist. The government was still finding it very hard to fight the bigotry and prejudice among the people. Society didn’t hesitate even once to shed blood in the name of race and creed. In this state of flux, our gentle and wise Captain is traveling from one land to another, reading out news as extravagantly as he could.
A Dying Shimmer
Captain Kidd while traveling from one place to another finds a dead body, of a man of color, hanging from a tree. He finds a scared little girl hiding in the bushes. She raises her guard and does not let the Captain come near her. The government officials come on the scene and it is decided that the Captain would leave the girl to an Indian agent who will leave her to her kin. But fate had something else in store. There was a waiting period till the agent came and till then the captain had to keep her with him. He again tries to leave her at a friend’s. But she is hard to control. Her yells and stubbornness stem out from deep-rooted angst, anger, and a sense of loss. Captain Kidd decides that it’s his job to leave her to her only relatives, whom she had never seen before.
An Unlikely Bond
It might look like a stereotypical drama on the onset. A benign man develops a paternal instinct towards an abandoned girl who somehow survived the man-made wrath, we refer to as a civil war. She was unaware of her roots. She believes that she belongs to the Kiowa community, unaware of the brutal reality that she had been kidnapped by those people who also killed her parents. But it is in the little nuances that the film completely distinguishes itself and abstains from becoming a mundane drama.
What also separates News Of The World from its genre is the strong acting performances by Helena Zengal (who plays this orphaned girl named Joanna Leonberger) and Tom Hanks. We have seen Tom Hanks play numerous characters but still, his mystical presence has the ability to get liquified and then take the form of the character in which it is put.
A Sense of Loss
Sharing happiness might result in the creation of a bond but sharing grief is what makes it inseparable. Both Joanna and Captain know very well what loss is. They have been privy to it. The journey which they take together makes them bond even stronger. The harsh terrain and man-made hurdles aids in creating a sort of understanding. Those eyes a lot and maybe that is why they could relate to each other. Others found it erratic and impulsive but they envisaged something that was not visible.
“It wasn’t a sickness, it was judgment”
Captain Kidd believes in forgetting the past and the need of making new memories. But Joanna tells him that first, one should remember, and then only they can move forward. The prerequisite to moving on in life is that you have to make peace with your past. There is no use in creating a reality devoid of your past. It won’t be a reality then. You shall only run away from an inevitable truth of life. Captain tells relatives with whom he leaves Joanna ” Give her books, she likes stories.”
But the relatives didn’t understand. They needed money or maybe land to earn money or maybe weapons but books and stories did not figure in their list of priorities. The question was, what use was booked for a society that counted its gains in materialistic parameters. People had blood on their hands. There were persisting greed and prejudice. In such a time, books, tales, poetry, creativity, or any piece of art could not find its footing. History was being made and it needed warriors and survivors, not artists.
News Of The World is based on a novel by Paulette Jiles, of the same name. It is not only layered and nuanced but also extremely well performed. The film directed by Paul Greengrass stands out from becoming the generic Western drama. It creates a niche for itself even when you feel like it does get a little nostalgic about the age-old genre and the reconstructive phase of the United Nation’s history. You must have seen those situations before, you must have been privy to those characters before but still, it seems different and unique in every aspect. It’s like a turbulent river that calms down eventually installing a sense of fulfillment and gratitude in every viewer.
News Of The World is streaming on Netflix.
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