“News of the World”–A Gift for the Heart

News of the World is based on the Paulette Jiles’s bestseller by the same name. The story follows a sixty-something curmudgeonly widower,   Captain  Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks), a traveling newspaper reader. Captain Kidd  entertains and informs townspeople–some of whom are illiterate– in small communities all over  Texas:  for the price of a silver dime. The year is 1870, five years after Reconstruction, and Texans still are disgruntled by their defeat after the end of the Civil War.

In the opening scene a Black man has been lynched and a ten-year-old blonde white girl (Helena Zengel) is hiding from Union authorities looking for her.  The girl speaks only Kiowa, the language of the tribe who has raised her after killing her parents and her older sister in retaliation for the government’s land grab of their territories.  She yearns to be with her Kiowa family.

At the insistence of the Union authorities  Kidd reluctantly assumes responsibility for returning the girl to her German immigrant relatives, a task the girl resents. Kidd feels ill-equipped to accompany her there, a trip of several hundred miles, while continuing his itinerant life as a newspaper reader.  But this is no ordinary Western and Kidd and the little girl he calls Johanna have challenges in establishing communication and trust in each other.

News of the World is marketed as a Western involving a horse-and-wagon road trip in a fight for survival in inhospitable, unwelcoming regions of the Texas Panhandle.  But primarily it is a feel-good “old man and little girl” story of human decency and the need for family.  Both Tom Hanks–who is made for this role–and Helena Zengel who performs the feat of conveying all of her angst without uttering more than a few words of English, Kiowa or German–make News of the World  a gift for the heart.

Availability: Paid “theater” ticket for streaming.

Comments (5)

  • An engrossing western in the old style. Hanks was powerful in his portrayal of a widower curmudgeon. The twists and turns were well timed – some comfortable, some violent, but the ending left one with hope.

  • One of the best of the year. Tom Hanks is America’s Everyman. And the little girl is magical — a shoo-in for a best supporting actress Oscar nomination (and the likely winner).

  • Hey,
    thanks for the info. I’m a Tom Hanks fan, an actor for all seasons. I’ll put it on my list.

    I’m working on 2 new books, editing a final draft of a wizard book and writing a new book that’s a sequel to Shelter of Leaves. Staying home most of the time, good for a writer to get work done. I do miss seeing friends. But at least the vaccines are getting around more, since we have a savvy president now.
    Cheers to you, hope all’s well with you,

    Sending best,

  • Your light review sums up the movie and the book. I recommend reading the book before seeing the movie. The book has some interesting points, such as using the dimes instead of bird shot in the shotgun cartridges. Your description of a feel good movie with Tom Hanks being perfect for the part is right on.

    • Using the dimes was part of the film as well, though it took me a while to figure out what she was doing and how could it work… time to ask the Science Guy.
      The acting was right on. Hanks nailed it again.

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