Daniel Kibbe’s review published on Letterboxd:
Featuring some of the greatest imagery put to the screen, Days of Heaven is Terrence Malick's best film. The simple story, likeable characters, interesting subtext, and drop-dead gorgeous cinematography completely won me over this second viewing. I couldn't help but get swept away into the picturesque farmland and loving story crafted with care by the great Mr. Malick.
The story has been done hundreds of times before Days of Heaven's release back in '78, and still this film remains fresh. Fleeing the law, Bill (Richard Gere) and Abby (Brooke Adams) end up as field workers for a mysterious man known as The Farmer (Sam Shepard), who's house sits in solitude upon a knoll overlooking the golden farmland. The Farmer takes a liking to the young Abby, and takes her into his house, developing tensions between him and Bill. At the same time, Abby begins to fall for The Farmer and all his riches, living in the serene house and roaming the fields with Linda, her young sister. It's a serene tale of life, and love, that's as beautiful as it is effective.
As we all know, stories like this can't go devoid of conflict, but when it happens (especially in the last 10 minutes) it feels somewhat forced. Some violence erupts, but it never feels necessary, other than providing a bit of tragedy to an already great story. Even so, you can't help but get swept up in the story of these simple characters, and their seemingly mundane tasks at the farm. It's a story that manages to be effective on a human level, evoking genuine emotions from the audience, which gives the ending some credibility. It becomes a harrowing character study that dissects the very essence of humanity, and the love we share. It's a timeless tale of love, friendship, and betrayal that will continue to affect generations.
It is simply great, effective storytelling.
Not only is the story captivating, the visuals are completely enthralling. The golden hues of the wheat fields bathed in the red rays of the sun creates a hypnotic atmosphere that kept my eyes glued to the screen. It’s certainly one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen, every single scene is framed in absolute perfection. The hauntingly beautiful atmosphere is helped again by the equally magnificent score. It adds to the mystery, and the beauty of the film. The draws you in like a good movie should, like a beautiful painting with characters you care about.
There isn't much to be said of the acting, other than it's very solid through and through. Even with the little dialogue given, the cast manages to make their mark on the screen, and on the viewer. They craft relateable characters that pique interest and require attention. They are never dull, nor boring, but captivating. And the whole film follows suit.
Days of Heaven is a visual masterpiece, plain and simple. Not only that, it backs up the impressive imagery with a timeless story and loveable characters. It is a simple, effective, beautiful work of art.
And I love it.