(1996)4.5Rebecca Flint MarxA searing, thoughtful portrait of life in a Texas border town, Lone Star is one part history lesson, one part sociological study, one part murder mystery. A high point in the career of writer/director John Sayles, the film is a graceful balancing act: unshowy and low-key, it weaves together disparate stories into one compelling narrative, making even its minor characters into individuals of dimension and substance. Using the murder angle as a pretext rather than a plot, Sayles makes it a window through which subjects as diverse as border politics, racial prejudice, dark family secrets, and even a repressed, decades-old romance can be viewed. Lone Star was also Sayles' most successful film; unlike much of his previous work, it was embraced by a mainstream audience, and a number of critics hailed it as the best film of the year. Sayles' method of storytelling, which had occasionally gotten him into trouble for its novel-like complexity and density, served him well in this instance. Lone Star is the cinematic equivalent of a compulsive page-turner, a thoroughly engaging story filled with characters that are plentiful yet not shabbily rendered, and intrigue that is thought-provoking rather than sensational.