Note, I didn't say movie star as she certainly was not a movie star but was a veteran Broadway actor, a real actor and not a movie face with "presence". Charles Bronson once said that what big movie stars have is "presence", not acting ability. Page has both of these attributes here in spades, acting and presence.
This great film could be my grandmother's story but in reverse, as my grandma had a very caring daughter, my mother, but a resentful son-in-law in my father so I saw a very similar story first hand, which made me appreciate this film all the more.
Page did a marvelous job of showing the immense disconnect between two diverse generations, one raised early in the 20th century in an era of intense religious devotion and the other raised 40 years later in a WWII era of emerging personal independence. The resulting conflicts between the loving son's selfish and demanding wife and his self-sacrificing mother was the entire story until her eventful "trip" back home to Bountiful, Texas. Wanting and praying so hard to be able to take her last trip home consumed her entire life as she gracefully but tearfully faced her hateful daughter-in-law's cruel harshness each and every day, with her unfortunate son forced to try to act as mediator. John Heard was effective as her concerned son caught in the middle.
Page was marvelous in the special way she showed her character's intense religious devotion and principles in how she always treated all people with decency even when they were not that way to her, and in how she tried her best to get along and be friendly in the face of intense dislike and resentment. Understandably, her all-day hymn singing got on her son's wife's nerves, just as my Grandma's incessant hymn singing got on my dad's nerves and forced the same conclusion....both old ladies were practically forced to leave.
Page's son loved both women dearly but he was forced to be in the difficult middle ground, wanting to please his jerk wife and his nice mom but was increasingly unable to do so, thus the long bus "trip" back home for mom was an inevitable run-away trip that left the son in an even greater mess....now what to do?
On her bus trip home, Page's character's "live and let live" understanding of humanity, and her awareness that we are all in the same boat here on earth(even though it was God's glorious boat to her)led her to reach out to a fellow bus traveler with immense friendliness and compassion in the best manner of her religion's teachings. Rebecca DeMornay was perfect as that fellow bus traveler, a prim young military wife on her way to her husband. And, even though Thomas Wolfe was right when he wrote that "you can never go home again", Page showed the perfect combination of wonder and sad acceptance upon seeing her old, run down, country home place again after so many years away in the big city.
Though her caring son finally came to retrieve her back home to whatever improvements he had worked out with his wife, at least she got to see the "old home place" one last time. She could now rest in peace no matter what. See this great story just to fill your heart, and to see that people in this country once were just like Page's character, and it was a better place for it.
Movies don't get any better than this one. If you loved this film you will also love "Places in The Heart".