Jane Fonda's Ella Conners is determined to keep her land, despite the attempts of rival rancher JW Ewing (Jason Robard) to get hold of it. She forms an alliance of convenience with another neighbour, Buck Athearn (James Caan), who has just been demobbed after World War II, but their relationship soon changes into something more personal...
Set in 1945, this latterday Western sees Jason Robards' ornery cattle baron going after Jane Fonda's small-time homesteader's land for its oil rights as she tries, as feistly as ever, to hold on to what she has.
From James Caan's returning GI to Robards' bereaved father, the characters, like the nation, are struggling to deal with the effects of World War II not to mention a sluggish story. Only Richard Farnsworth's old cow-hand really shines, as a throwback to earlier and, in the American psyche, morally less ambiguous times. The burgeoning relationship between Fonda and Caan is charming, beginning in an alliance of convenience against Robards and growing into something else. However, the pacing drags their best efforts down.
Director Alan Pakula's sympathies seem to lie in the landscape, never less than exquisitely framed. But even this mute star can't fill the space left by dour performances.