But wait a minute! It suddenly became available! Hurrah! Hurrah! Although only at a fairly high price for a relatively old movie on DVD.
Being very careful not to write a plot-spoiler: the film starts when two off-duty soldiers uncover a human skull in the desert near their army base. Sam Deeds (Chris Cooper), the relatively new sheriff, is called in to investigate. After some forensic tests it is soon established that the skeleton is that of Charlie Wade (terrifyingly played by Kris Kristofferson) who was himself sheriff of Rio County many years earlier. (As you may possibly have guessed after my last sentence, part of the story is told in flashback!) Wade, a widely-despised, violent and corrupt bully, had disappeared after a public quarrel with his deputy, and Sam's father, Buddy Deeds (Matthew McConaughey). Buddy Deeds is something of a local hero and as Sam investigates Charlie's murder it becomes more and more likely that his own father was the man's killer.
However, the memory of Buddy Deeds is held in very high esteem in the community, which is about to name its new Court House after him. Sam, who we are led to believe probably only achieved his current office as a result of his late father's good standing, is constantly warned off from digging too deeply - nobody has ever missed Charlie Wade or regretted his passing!
During his investigation, Sam meets up again with Pilar Cruz (the always excellent Elizabeth Peňa). Pilar was his high school sweetheart and is the lost love of his life. This relationship had been forbidden by his father, Buddy, which Sam puts down to racist prejudice, and we sense that he still carries a bitter resentment against his father for this interference in his life. Lone Star is a powerful film about the unstated tensions often present in relationships between mothers/fathers and their offspring.
This film is, in my book, outstanding. It has an intelligent, engaging story and an interesting mixture of central and peripheral characters, who you feel each live a life beyond whatever scene you meet them in. What's more, this story is never what you expect it to be and touches the heart without ever becoming sentimental. The film manages to be romantic too but in an extremely off-beat kind of way. Most definitely not a mainstream movie, although I believe it was described by one critic as "almost commercial". The acting, direction and writing for my money is top-notch. I would have no hesitation in ranking this movie as one of my favourite films - if ever such a thing existed! Heaven forfend!
(Update: the competition I ran last week to win five copies of Niedermayer & Hart has resulted in the book being about to be sent to Spain, Portugal, Sweden, UK and the US - frankly, I was quite amazed!)