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Cinematic Analysis: The Long Walk Home
Part A: Plot Summary
The Long Walk Home, directed by Richard Pearce, is the tale of Miriam Thompson (Sissy
Spacek), a white woman in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, who dances on the line
between the two opposing sides of the movement until she is forced to make a decision. The film
explores her evolving perception of what is right and what is wrong. Miriams story centralizes
on the that theme that no matter what ones past or social class is, one can always change to do
the right thing. However, The Long Walk Home is as much about racial issues as it is about the
relationship between Miriam and her housekeeper, Odessa (Whoopi Goldberg). The movie opens
at the start of the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama. Odessa, who would always take the bus
to Miriams house now had to walk to and from work, starts to get occasional rides to work from
Miriam. Eventually, Miriam begins to drive Odessa to work everyday. When Miriams husband,
Norman (Dwight Schultz), finds out that Miriam is driving Odessa to work he condemns her,
saying that her actions are ruining his reputation as a white man in Montgomery. Miriam then
realizes that she cannot stay on the fence any longer. She defies the social norm that she has been
brought up in and joins the organized carpool among the African American, without her
husbands knowledge. Weeks later Norman joined a group that planned to shut down the carpool
parking lot using whatever means necessary. Upon their arrival, Norman saw his wife working
there. He then recruited his brother, Tunker (Dylan Baker), to get her out of the lot before the
trouble began. Miriam agreed to leave so she gathered Odessa and her daughter, Mary Catherine
(Lexi Randall), and headed to the car. She was then stopped by a white man standing in front of
her car saying, You aint driving your nigga maid outta here. He then began to smash the

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windows in her car saying that she had to walk with the rest of the niggas. Tunker then stops
the white man and tells Miriam that its time to go. After Miriam calls him an ignorant son of a
bitch Tunker slaps her across the face. In turn Norman walks up and punches Tunker, they then
begin to fight. After Tunker is pulled off of Norman a mob starts to form with Miriam standing
silently in the middle of it. The mob begins chanting walk nigga walk over and over again at
the women in the lot. In turn the women join hands and start singing Im Going Through.
Whilst the white men are chanting and the black women are singing a woman reaches her hand
out to Miriam and Miriam joins the line, making the decision that solidifies her stance on the
issue and puts in a point where she cannot return to her former life.
Part B: Historical Significance
The Long Walk Home takes place during the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott of 1956.
In many respects The Long Walk Home aims for historical accuracy. It has segments that almost
feel like a documentary, its captures the lifestyle of the African American housekeepers at that
time, and reflects the carpool system that was in place at the time. Although the detail of the
movie makes it feel like it couldve happened, most of the events that took place did not actually
occur. The famous scene that takes place at the parking lot, in which the women are singing with
clasped hands while the men are chanting, did not actually happen. There has also been no
historical evidence that there was ever a white woman driving the carpools. The question of
fiction versus nonfiction aside, The Long Walk Home does a fabulous job of creating characters
and situations that fit right into the time period. To dramatize the movement, the film recreates
the nightly church meetings that many African Americans attended at that time. One of the
scenes includes a speech from Dr. King. The film recreates the hundreds of people pouring out of
the church as they listen to hear him speak. The Long Walk Home is a well-crafted piece of

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historical fiction that explores all elements of the boycott whilst showing the friendship shared
between Miriam and Odessa.
Part C: Cinematic Techniques
The most noticeable cinematic technique of The Long Walk Home is the opening credits.
The film opens on a black and white picture of the treetops and the sky. As the credits roll, the
Ken Burns effect is used to very slowly zoom out and pan until the viewer can see three woman
standing on the side of the road. The black and white picture then seamlessly dissolves into a
colored video of the same scene. The entire shot last over a minute but it perfectly establishes the
setting and the mood of the film. This cinematic technique was developed by director, Richard
Pearce, and cinematographer, Roger Deakins. The cinematography was clearly influenced
Richard Pearces documentary style techniques. Pearce had done the cinematography for over
ten documentaries before directing The Long Walk Home. The film has a very natural and
smooth feel to it. It makes the film feel more realistic and allows the audience to get lost in the
story. To create this feeling Pearce and Deakins use many long-lasting shots in which a lot is
said. For example, when a committee meeting is held among white small business owners an
entire two minute conversation between Norman and Tunker is taken in two shots. This creates
the natural feel of the bustling crowd that they are a part of. In the following scene the same
technique of having few cuts in a scene while showing the meeting in church among the black
citizens. These parallel techniques create a similar simplistic feel to extremely contrasting
settings. Throughout the film viewers can easily get lost in the story because of how few cuts
occur. Pearce and Deakins perfectly executed the cinematography to construct seamless

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