In 1892 Ireland, a tenant farmer dies in the arms of his youngest son Joseph (Tom Cruise) but not before he tells him, "Land is a man's very own soul!" The ardent youth hurries off to murder the landlord he holds responsible for his father's death and for forcing them off their farm. At the country estate, he meets Shannon (Nicole Kidman), the landlord's high-spirited daughter. She's an independent lass, who considers herself "smart and modern." She plans to go to America where she has heard there is free land for the taking. Yearning for land of his own, Joseph goes with her as her servant.

Ron Howard's Far and Away is an old-fashioned film carried into our hearts with breathtaking scenery, a swelling soundtrack, and large-scale dramatic happenings. But the real magic in the movie is the slow and meandering relationship that develops between Joseph, the stubborn Irish peasant, and Shannon, the sophisticated young woman. Robbed of their financial resources in Boston, they take a rented room in a whorehouse. They pass themselves off as brother and sister, which pretty well describes their stance toward each other. Joseph earns money for as a bare-knuckle boxer. Their goal is to join the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1893.

In her bestselling book A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson notes: "Relationships are the Holy Spirit's laboratories in which He brings together people who have the maximal opportunity for mutual growth." The blooming of love between Joseph and Shannon is unhurried and cautious. First, they have to set aside the class barriers which separate them. Next, they must learn to shore up each other's self-image. And when they finally reach Oklahoma, they must choose what is most important to them. In the end, they realize that a life together in love — not land — is the soul's deepest yearning.