Set in Montgomery, Alabama, during the 1955 civil rights bus boycott, The Long Walk Home is an effectively mounted drama about the human impact of changing times on two families, with sturdy performances by Sissy Spacek as an uppercrust white housewife and Whoopi Goldberg as her maid.
Spacek’s Miriam Thompson is a prim model of upper-middle-class Southern womanhood who cannot run her household without her indispensable maid Odessa.
Racist jokes are commonplace during cocktail parties and family dinners, where Spacek’s brother-in-law (Dylan Baker) espouses hard-line segregationist attitudes.
Goldberg’s hard-working husband (Ving Rhames) and three well-mannered kids make a loving family, but the household’s mood is tense because of external events. Local black leaders call for a bus boycott to end segregated seating. As the black boycott stiffens, so does white resistance, which turns ugly with the bombing of Martin Luther King’s house. Afraid of change, the town establishment refuses to compromise.
The film resists the temptation to succumb to sentimentality and offers believable characterizations in the context of its time and place.