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One Came Home

Director William Bearden (right) on the set
with lead actor Corey Parker

“One Came Home” is a small, independent film that will probably receive little attention and a very limited release. While not a great film, it is a story of grace and redemption that’s worth seeing.

“One Came Home” takes place in a small town in Mississippi in 1946. The town is excited to hear of the arrival of John Mazilli from New York. John served in the army with Murphy Hodges during World War II in Europe. Murphy was killed in battle and John comes to visit Murphy’s family and pay his respects.

Still mourning his loss, the Hodges family is excited by John’s visit. Murphy’s mother Grace still writes letters to him and stores them in a box in her drawer. Murphy’s young widow Hope wants her two small children to hear stories of their father. Hope’s sister Savannah, who went to work in a shipyard during the war, now has come home and is taken by the stranger.

Director William Bearden gets the details of small town life in the South exactly right. You can almost feel the oppressive heat as you hear the chirping of the cicadas at night. The whole town is excited to meet this mysterious stranger. As not only a New Yorker but also a Catholic, John might as well have come from outer space. “One Came Home” captures America in a time and place so different from the cynical urban/suburban multicultural country we have become. Country stores with eccentric characters, small town dances, and Wednesday night services in the small Methodist church all seem to belong to a different era.

John tells Murphy’s family and friends that he is collecting money for a monument to his battalion in Washington. As you might expect, he is eventually revealed to be a con artist, trying to make a few bucks and head out on the next train to New York. But something in the goodness of these small town people touches John. He admits that he never knew Murphy and has no plans to build a monument. In a wonderful scene at the Wednesday night church service, John has a moment of conversion as the minister reads the story of the Prodigal Son.

Despite the deception of John, the Hodges family also learns from him to examine the lies they are living. In addition, the sharing of memories of Murphy helps the family to deal with their grief and move on.

Like a good short story, “One Came Home” takes its time telling its story, with plenty of attention to detail and character. But that’s part of its charm, as we move into a distant, slower paced era. If you come across it at a theater or on DVD, I hope you’ll consider spending a couple of hours with these wonderful characters. I think you’ll find it a rewarding experience.

Tom Condon, OP