"Do everything with a mind that lets go.
Do not expect any praise or reward.
If you let go a little, you will have a little peace.
If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace.
If you let go completely, you will know complete peace and freedom.
Your struggles with the world will have come to an end."
So writes Buddhist teacher Ajahn Chah in Insight Meditation. He is referring to the ideal state of being that comes with meditation. But what he says also applies to the benefits of letting go in other areas of life.
Welcome to a tobacco farm in North Carolina, which is not too far from the setting for Angus MacLachlan's screenplay for Junebug. He now has both written and directed this intense and poignant drama. Martin Scorsese served as the executive producer; that makes sense given this rural story's themes of grief, faith, ethics, and legacy.
In the opening scene, Tracy (Amy Ryan) is burying her father's ashes in a crop field on the farm where she lives with born-again and controlling brother Jesse (Terry Kinney). He tries to convince her that the old man, who died of cancer after a long illness, should be put to rest in consecrated ground in the nearby woods, but she wants him on his own land. Choked up with grief, they stubbornly hold to their positions.
Before they can settle the matter, Tracy and Jesse notice that three elderly brothers have spent the night in a tent on their land. Hans (Max Gail), the eldest of the three, reveals that their mother, troubled about her husband's alcoholism, sold their farm to Tracy and Jesse's father for a pittance of its worth.
Now that he is dying of pancreatic cancer Hans has come home with Tom (Francis Guinan), a stroke victim, and Charles (Steve Coulter), a loner who has served as caretaker for his brothers. Whereas Tracy makes it clear that she wants them to leave quickly, Jesse has other ideas.
After much prayer, he tells his sister that he's going to give the farm to these brothers for nothing as an act of atonement for the greed and dishonesty of their parents. Tracy responds with anger and disbelief. But Jesse is determined. He goes so far as to suggest that she lacks true connections with the land because she was adopted.
Writer and director MacLachlan circles around the primal theme of letting go and setting out for new territory as both Tracy and Jesse entertain some drastic changes in their lives. But old fears and behaviors block their passage to a transformation that will release them from the isolation, loneliness, and dread they feel inside. We're left wondering what it would really mean for them to let go completely.