One of The Homesman's (2014) most obvious themes is that life was pretty terrible in 1850's frontier America, and doubly so for women. The Homesman is extremely blunt and unapologetic when depicting the tragedies that befell the three “crazy” female characters, because it chooses to be genuine in its portrayals of what led them to insanity. One woman’s entire flock of crops and livestock get destroyed and she drops her infant child in the outhouse toilet, another woman is raped and suffers a breakdown after the death of her mother, and the third, a teenage mother, lost all three of her children to diphtheria within a day.
The most effective means of getting the audience to believe the insanity of what happened to the women is to show it, and Tommy Lee Jones chose to do just that. The measure of the women’s craziness and the honesty behind it was instant. The things that happen are all wretched and hard to swallow, but were realities of the time. The Homesman, unlike many films put into the “western” category, does nothing to romanticize life during the time. It’s the complete polarization of that, and the entire movie is founded on how extremely not awesome living in the lonely, barren expanses of undeveloped 1850s America really was.
Further, the scenes were depicted the same way in the novel upon which this film was based. Tommy Lee Jones told the story quite well, and drew scenes from the book as they were told.