Ulee's Gold & Mrs. Brown

Ulee's Gold & Mrs. Brown

How nonviolent and unlurid can a melodrama be and yet remain a melodrama? Ulee’s Gold, written and directed by Victor Nunez, provides a test case. Its plot has a kinship to the storylines of other melodramas about solid citizens trying to protect their homes from human predators-Cape Fear, Straw Dogs, The Desperate Hours. A Florida beekeeper, Ulysses “Ulee” Jackson, has freeze-dried his emotions after the death of his wife and the imprisonment of his son for armed robbery. Only his pride in his apiary and his love for his two granddaughters link him to life. When a couple of criminal associates of his son, believing (correctly) that the younger Jackson had stashed away some loot before his arrest, close in on Ulee and his girls to pressure the beekeeper into locating the money for them, Ulee, a veteran once traumatized by the slaughter of his platoon in Vietnam, now faces violence again. But this time, fighting for loved ones and winning the friendship of a humane and attractive neighbor, he renews his appetite for life and helps to reunite his family.

The cinematic flesh on these bare bones of melodramatic narrative is anything but melodramatic. Far from pumping sinister atmosphere into the Florida setting, cinematographer Virgil Milano’s camera seems entranced, even somewhat dazed by the sunlight and heat it renders. The details of beekeeping and honey extraction are peripheral to the storyline (Ulee doesn’t...

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About the Author

Richard Alleva has been reviewing movies for Commonweal since 1990.