SOMMERSBY seems at first to be an uplifting drama about a returning Confederate soldier; however, by mysterious turns the story of the man who appears to be Jack Sommersby (Richard Gere) becomes a nightmare of moral relativism, in which an entire community chooses to believe a lie because it is more profitable than the truth. Jack Sommersby returns home to a cold reception from his wife Laura (Jodie Foster) and her new fiancee Orrin Meecham (Bill Pullman). Jack appears to have changed for the better. What used to be a cold, violent marriage quickly becomes passionate, and Jack soon revitalizes the community. However, Orrin continues to be resentful of Jack, and three drifters peg Jack for an imposter. He is actually an ex-schoolteacher named Horace. Laura knows the truth, but she is so much happier with this imposter that she is unwilling to face the reality of her adultery.
SOMMERSBY is intentionally laden with moral confusion. The viewer of SOMMERSBY is incited to decide whether to feel sympathetic toward or condemn this opportunistic imposter. Orrin, the most prominent Christian character, is presented as a self-righteous troublemaker. The acting is unremarkable. SOMMERSBY is the ultimate revisionist romance, ascribing the confused moral climate of the ’90s to the Civil War generation.
(H, Ab, L, SS, VV) Humanistic worldview propelled by moral relativism and equivocation; e.g. woman accepts imposter as replacement for deceased husband because he treats her better and helps the community; Christian character represented as fanatic while imposter is ahead of his time on racial issues and shows enlightened tendencies; 7 profanities & 2 obscenities; 3 aggressive adulterous bedroom scenes (without nudity); violent fist fight, choking and black man beaten by Klan-like group.