Woman Walks Ahead screenplay by Steven Knight
This motion picture may be Oscar material, although the few critics that have written about it so far do not appear too impressed.
Jessica Chastain has given extraordinary performances in the past years and her portrayal of the painter Catherine Weldon is another confirmation of the phenomenal talent of this vibrant artist.
If nothing else, her acting is deserving of an aforementioned Academy Award.
Catherine Weldon is the Wonder Woman, the quintessential role model, the representation of Character Strengths as identified by positive psychology:
Bravery, integrity, vitality, perseverance, love, kindness, social intelligence, appreciation of beauty and excellence, hope, gratitude, humor, spirituality, modesty, forgiveness, self –regulation, prudence, fairness, perspective, citizenship, curiosity, open mindedness, love of learning and creativity.
The protagonist wants to paint a portrait of Sitting Bull, The Last of the Great Native American Chiefs, sends a letter to James McLaughlin, the head of the Reservation where the former owners of the land are kept.
The painter has also included a message for the great Warrior, but the man in charge with the defeated First Nations decides to burn that message and orders his subordinate to arrest the woman when/if she comes there.
Catherine Weldon takes the train – a Pullman, with a sleeping car, as Sitting Bull would ironically point out, when the heroine would exaggerate the effort made to come and meet him.
This is where the men would all turn around when they see a woman in the restaurant car, in a period in history when women were supposed to stay at home, clean and cook for the domineering husband.
When she meets with the villain of this story, Silas Groves portrayed by the recent winner of an Academy Award, the flamboyant Sam Rockwell, the army officer would inquire about the presence of a female near the Reservation with dismay.
Silas Groves is flabbergasted after he asks about what the protagonist does, for he sees only a couple of possible professions for a woman, who otherwise has to stay at home and when he hears she is a painter, he looks like he heard her say she is the president.
Catherine Weldon has had the chance to paint a few important people, including a member of the United States Senate and she is a strong willed, determined woman, willing to fight for her rights and standing.
Nevertheless, Silas Groves and his acolytes would resort to anything, including threats, insults and violence to deter her and prevent the woman from ever reaching the Native Americans, who are expected to sign a very demeaning treaty and the government officials want to make them accept it.
On the train, the vicious Silas Groves treats the travelling painter with arrogance, male superiority, mentioning a lunch they would have in New York and the need for her to abandon a flawed, impossible project.
Once the train stops near the Reservation – near in the sense that there are miles to travel there, not hundreds of miles- the bad character in the narrative prevents the heroine from getting any help with her luggage, furthermore, he makes one brute spit in her face.
Catherine Weldon has to carry her bags through the prairie, up to the moment when a Native American comes riding his horse, moves around, attaches the luggage to his animal, appears to help the protagonist, but then rides ever faster and disappears in the distance.
This was a humorous scene in a drama where tragedy, sadness, injustice, violence, abuse, horror and abominable acts on the part of the United States Government seem to be the order of the day.
After the incident wherein the painter was sure she was getting help, became friendly with the man who actually robbed her, she arrives at the camp, where she is told to take the next train and go back to her town, an order that she refuses, determined as she is to have it her way.
Sitting Bull agrees to allow her to paint his portrait, while discussing it in the potato field, for the sum of one thousand dollars, agreeing to pose in his traditional dress, after the initial intention of appearing in the Western style suite.
The Chief and the painter would become more than friends, she seems to become infatuated, in love with him, while she is beaten, abused, tormented and tortured by locals who see the First Nations as the enemy.
The brave, wonderful artist becomes involved in the fight for the rights of the Lakota peoples, who face starvation with the diminishing of their rations, meant to force them to accept an abusive, shameful treaty that would confiscate much or their land.
Alas, this is a lost battle, the proud Americans of today are the successors of killers who have stolen the land from the Native Americans, then worked it abusing other populations, the African Slaves so that they could chant and support the ridiculous, preposterous, clownish Trump today…in a nutshell.