Lone Star embodies both simplicity and complexity. With quiet, watchful, and soft-spoken intelligence, director John Sayles displays broad social and political awareness, without ever losing sight of the human scale. He focuses on macro-political issues that he intertwines with the personal, demonstrating how universal concerns affect the lives of ordinary individuals.
At some point during the first act of the film, a scene seemingly unrelated to the rest of the movie takes up a considerable amount of screen time. This is a school meeting where disgruntled parents argue about which textbook would be more appropriate for their children’s history class. Pilar (Elizabeth Pena), the teacher, is desperately trying to appease them by explaining that all she was trying to do was present her students with a more complete picture. “Now that’s what’s gotta stop,” a concerned mother blurts out. What they are actually arguing about in the racially diverse and intolerant small town is whose version of history they should cover. And everyone in Rio County seems to remember the past a bit differently. The director is also bent on showing us, the viewers, the complete picture in this multi-layered narrative of the present and past of this disjointed community, from multiple points of view. Brief, meaningful encounters like this make up the movie, which plunges us directly into the action and lets us figure out on our own exactly how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. Like Citizen Kane, Lone Star brings us closer to the truth through each vignette, while Sam (Chris Cooper) acts as our go-between, our guide.