With Heaven and Earth -- cobbled together from two autobiographical reminiscences (When Heaven and Earth Changed Places and Child of War, Woman of Peace by Le Ly Hayslip -- Oliver Stone completes his self-declared "Vietnam Trilogy" (the other films being Platoon and Born On the Fourth of July) of films examining the Vietnam War from different perspectives. Heaven and Earth begins in the central Vietnamese village of Ky La during the 1950s. Phung Le Ly (Hiep Thi Le) is an innocent peasant girl, helping her mother (Joan Chen) to tend the rice paddies while being lectured in the ways of life by her father (Haing Ngor). The idyllic peace of the village is disrupted when a jet bomber crosses the skies. Soon the village is decimated as the American-backed South Vietnamese government troops and the Viet Cong engage in brutal warfare in which the victims are the innocent villagers. Le Ly is both tortured and raped. She leaves Ky La for Danang for a life as a prostitute. There she meets the tall and craggy American soldier Steve Butler (Tommy Lee Jones), a kind but lonely man who isn't looking for sex but for someone to settle down with -- as he says, "I want an Oriental wife." They marry, and Steve takes her back to the United States, where her in-laws look at her not as a wife but as a pet. In the harsh glare of 1970s U.S. culture, Le Ly has trouble adjusting to the American way of life. But not as hard a time as her husband, who, after twenty years in Vietnam, discovers he cannot adapt to civilian life.
by Paul Brenner synopsis