Based on the novel by Ken Kesey, Sometimes a Great Notion tells the story of a family of loggers determined to fulfil a contract against the wishes of the majority of their neighbours who are all out on strike. Of course it’s all fiercely patriarchal and rugged and there’s plenty of great logging footage and macho individuality stuff. It’s also utterly watchable thanks to Paul Newman’s wonderfully loose direction that lets the drama breathe and the humour rise.
But, the kicker here, the real gut punch, is in a scene of family tragedy that has rattled round in my head for the best part of a week now. The terror of it is one thing, but the way that Newman builds from a quiet mistake to dawning tension and brings out the humanity, humour, truth and heartbreak is devastating and real in a way that you don’t often see. The acting is sublime and perfect as machismo is stripped away and love and desperation come to the forefront.
It’s one of those perfect scenes.
a.k.a. Never Give an Inch