"I always felt that the great high privilege, relief, and comfort of friendship," Katharine Mansfield wrote, "was that one had to explain nothing." That is one of the defining keys of the relationship between Pete Calder (Billy Crudup) and Big Boy Matson (Woody Harrelson) who are re-united after serving in World War II. These best friends live in the prairie town of Hi-Lo, New Mexico, where Jim Ed Love (Sam Elliott), the largest landowner, is greedily devouring small-time ranchers. Big Boy, who loves cattle drives and being free under the big sky, is angry that his younger brother (Cole Hauser) works for this successful businessman.

Pete, who serves as the film narrator, is smitten by Mona (Patricia Arquette), a sexy married woman who is the kind of person who can make — as one character puts it — "a man's teeth itch." This yearning is complicated by the fact that Big Boy is having a heated affair with her.

These combustible elements — familial anger, sexual jealousy, and the clash between cowboys and businessmen — test the depth of the friendship between Pete and Big Boy. Stephen Frears directs this leisurely film, which is based on a 1961 novel by Max Evans. Strong and heart-felt performances by Billy Crudup and Woody Harrelson make Hi-Lo Country an immensely appealing drama.