American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"Far and Away" is a movie that joins astonishing visual splendor with a story so simple-minded it seems intended for adolescents; watching it, I kept being reminded of the "Childhoods of Famous Americans" books, in which plucky young people made their way in life. It's depressing that such a lavish and expensive production, starring an important actor like Tom Cruise, could be devoted to such a shallow story. Do they think audiences have entirely lost their wits? The movie stars Cruise as Joseph, son of a poor working man in Ireland. When his father cannot pay the rent on the land, the family's home is burned down by goons working for the landlord.
Joseph vows vengeance and goes off to murder the man (and is bid a cheerful farewell by the entire village, so little does he conceal his intentions). But when he is discovered lurking in a stable and beaten to within an inch of his life by the sadistic overseer, he's taken into the landlord's mansion for treatment, and there he first becomes attracted to his rebellious, headstrong daughter Shannon, played by Nicole Kidman.
She is tired of being a proper, well-behaved young lady, and yearns to go to America, where she hears that land is being given away. Encountering Joseph by chance a little later in Dublin, she asks him to come along with her, and with nothing to lose, he does.
Their chance encounter is not an accident, but the basic strategy of the entire plot, which is a series of chance encounters. Perhaps that is because the story is so arbitrary and the characters so transparent that nothing that happens can be explained on any level higher than coincidence.