Stripped down to the bare essentials few people actually ever come into contact with, pic remains a rather private ordeal observed from the outside looking in. There is a victory at the end, but not a sense of lasting triumph.
The message of continuous hardship is somewhat at odds with the same impulse towards idyllic lyricism that Rydell brought to On Golden Pond. Vilmos Zsigmond contributes his usual handsome photography, but this is one river that seems unlikely to run.
Gibson, the thinking man's Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Spacek, a rawboned Raggedy Ann, are nearly silent partners in this largely visual parable. Despite their good looks and best efforts, the film falters. [11 Jan 1985, p.19]
Rydell and his writers compose a kind of Farmers' Book of Job as they pile one misery after another on the Garveys. But all this suffering does not turn them into real people. They're those old Hollywood standbys, Mr. and Mrs. Indomitable Human Spirit. [31 Dec 1984, p.65]