The Whole Wide World

Director: Dan Ireland
Screenwriters: Michael Scott Myers

Institute History

  • 1996 Sundance Film Festival


If the character of Robert E. Howard, the popular pulp fiction writer who created such well-known exotic figures as Conan the Barbarian, Red Sonja, and King Kull seems an unlikely starting point for a film that is unabashedly as poignant and romantic as The Whole Wide World, that’s only one of a number of surprises that director Dan Ireland has in store for us in his directorial debut. Too often the typical romantic feature is filled with clichés and is also quite facile, but the qualities of directness and realism that infuse this portrait of a relationship are the very reasons we are absorbed by it.

Based on a book by Novalyne Price, who wrote a memoir at the age of seventy-six after teaching school for forty-four years, The Whole Wide World is set in Texas in the mid 1930s. Price, a pretty schoolteacher and aspiring writer, first meets Howard through a mutual friend, her former beau, and begins a relationship which will shape the rest of their lives. Yet what the future will bring remains unclear. Deliberately paced and enacted, The Whole Wide World is the story of a love as complex and difficult as real life. Vincent D’Onofrio and Reneè Zellweger are both simply outstanding in bringing to life two people whose feelings for each other are ultimately irredeemable but everlasting. With wonderful dialogue and character interaction, The Whole Wide World is a tragically powerful portrayal of love and relationships that is as engaging and deep rooted as any film you will see this year.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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