Shenandoah is a late period James Stewart Western set against a back drop of the Civil War. Charlie Anderson (Stewart) is the patriarch of a large Virginian family whose sons he is desperately trying to keep out of the war. Anderson is fiercely independent and although against slavery is equally against war in any form. As such his farm is caught in a no man’s land of peace, surrounded on all four sides by the sounds and smells of war. As the war begins encroaching on his farm and on his family he battles hard to remain neutral but when his youngest son is mistakenly taken as a prisoner of war by the North he is forced to act and sets out with his other sons to bring his youngest home.
It took me a while to get into Shenandoah but by the end it was the closest I’d come to crying in a film since I last saw Schindler’s List. The film’s final act is incredibly emotional and without going into spoiler territory, shares some similarities with the plot of Saving Private Ryan. I was moved by Anderson’s steadfast attitude but change of heart when someone he loved was affected and Stewart is sublime in the lead role.