Sommersby is a 1993 romantic drama film directed by Jon Amiel. It is a remake of the 1982 French Film Le retour de Martin Guerre (The return of Martin Guerre) by Daniel Vigne. Both of these stories center on a man who returns home after being away many years at war. Yet, the man who returns is an imposter, who appears to fool his family and the townspeople. It is not till near the end of each film, that you learn the truth.
Sommersby, is a story that draws in its audience with the American traits of idealism and romance. It is a story about Jack Sommersby returning to his wife Laurel after the civil war. But in reality it is Horace Townsend who returns, playing Jack. It is not until much later in the film that you learn he is an imposter. From Jack’s return home you look at him as someone attempting to live the American ideal of success, as well as the idealistic thought that a person can change for the better. American’s always want to believe that people change, that you can be better and that success is available to anyone who just puts forth the effort. Jack (Horace) epitomizes that belief. So Horace starts the movie with an American ideal that everyone considers at one point or another in their life, the ability to start over.
Jack (Horace) came home not the same man that he was before he left, but one who was kinder, more compassionate. Jack was seeking to not only be successful himself, but to allow the town people to be part of the American dream. In order to help his town, he believes that changing what they grow from cotton to Burley tobacco will bring prosperity to the town. To raise the cash for the crops, Jack (Horace) sells pieces of his farm off to people who will use this land to grow tobacco. This act allows more than just Jack (Horace) a piece of the American Dream. “The American Dream being our national "ethos" of the United States; a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success; and upward "social mobility" achieved through hard work.” (Fields)
Jack (Horace) also takes on the issue of rights for freed slaves (idealistic during the era, and even today). Although threatened for his actions in an attempt to make him not allow Black people to own his land, he does not back down from selling to Blacks, saying that the they can “own what they pay for.” How much more idealistic could Jack (Horace) be, but to take on the issue of human rights.
Sacrificing all for the better good is another part of the American ideal....