The Great Scenes: “Come Home” from Junebug

The Movie:                Junebug

Spoiler Level:             Zero point Zero

The Setup: Madeleine is an arts dealer living in Chicago with her new husband, George.  Madeleine plans a trip to North Carolina in order to convince an obscure artist to allow her to showcase his art.  This artist just happens to live very close to George’s hometown.  Madeleine and George have only been married 6 months and she has never met his family.  Madeleine is a naturally friendly and easy-going woman, and it certainly provides an interesting scenario when the groom’s family meets their new daughter-in-law well after the wedding for the very first time. While in North Carolina, the family attends a church potluck where everyone knows George and was already aware of his return home.  At the potluck, Madeleine seems taken aback when a young pastor prays with the family and it proves to only confound her more when she sees how easily and unashamedly George fits back in; bowing his head.  The pastor then asks George to sing in front of the rest of the congregation the hymn, “Softly and Tenderly”.  Shyly at first, George agrees without much hesitation.

The Scene:

Why It’s Great:
Madeleine hears the minister’s request that George sing in front of the crowd.  She watches the exchange at first with a look of mild and humorous curiosity as if she is a bit confused as to why they would ask George, her husband, to sing a hymn.  However, as George begins to sing, Madeleine’s look of curiosity turns into an intense and focused glare of someone returning home, as it were, with a feeling that something is not how they left it.  The half-smile Madeleine had at first is gone and in its place is the stone-cold face of a woman who is seeing her husband for the very first time.  Perhaps she was unaware of his musical talents.  Perhaps she was unaware of him being religious.  Perhaps it was the ease with which George steps right back into the stride of the way of life of his family and the people of his hometown.  By Madeleine’s reaction, one that is itself worth a million lines of dialogue, we are given the impression that Madeleine is realizing that she met, fell in love with and married a completely different George than the one singing at present.  Yet, by its conclusion, Madeleine is sincerely impressed and made happy by what she has just witnessed.  Whether it’s his musical talents, his religious feelings or just maybe because she finally feels like she has caught a glimpse of the real George, she is proud and content; joining the rest of the congregation in applause.

We are all born and grow up and are fashioned into something that has a hint or flavor of our original environment.  We all change when we leave home and become what we think is our true selves. Eventually, we return home again and feel that natural pull guiding us back to what we once were.  Some fight it, but George doesn’t.  He doesn’t give in completely, but he’s home and it is a part of who he was or is and he doesn’t fight it.  He’s not being fake.  He’s being himself or what his self was at one point in time and Madeleine, a big-city arts dealer, understands that and accepts it.

I shouldn’t close without mentioning the beautiful symbolism that the lyrics of the hymn provide:

Come home, come home,

Ye who are weary, come home;

Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,

Calling, O sinner, come home!