There are a lot of things I could say about this HBO miniseries, now available on video. The great cast. The Pulitzer Prize book it was based on, and how well the longer format fits a mostly quiet story like this. The big surprise near the end, that startled me and Lee. But what I kept coming back to, watching it, was growing up in small towns, and either leaving or sticking around. Miles is a guy who should have left. There’s a guy in Empire Falls, a cop, who says that he has never wanted to be anywhere else, not for one second. He knows Miles would rather have been almost anywhere else, but was trapped by circumstances as binding as those that kept George Bailey in Bedford Falls. He still dreams of getting away, but it’s really too late. Once you get set in a place like that, you probably lose your ability to really fit in anywhere else. The sad thing is, Miles will never really fit into Empire Falls, either.
This story line resonates with me. I knew from an early age that the thing I wanted most in the world was to shake the dust of my dreary little hometown and go out and see the world. I’ve roamed ever since, and have been damn glad I did. I’ve only been back to that little town two or three times since, once for a high school reunion, and was amazed to see how happy the folks who stayed seem to be. I’m happy for them, but I know I made the right choice. I would have suffocated there, like Miles.
Sorry, this is not much of a review, I know, but it all felt so personal to me.