Heaven & Earth is a 1993 American biographical war drama film written and directed by Oliver Stone, and starring Tommy Lee Jones, Haing S. Ngor, Joan Chen, and Hiep Thi Le. It is the third and final film in Stone's Vietnam War trilogy, which also includes Platoon (1986) and Born on the Fourth of July (1989).
The film was based on the books When Heaven and Earth Changed Places and Child of War, Woman of Peace, which Le Ly Hayslip wrote about her experiences during and after the Vietnam War.
Le Ly is a girl growing up in a Vietnamese village. Her life changes when the communist insurgents show up in the village to first fight the forces of France and then the United States. During the American involvement, Le Ly is captured and tortured by South Vietnamese government troops, and later raped by the Viet Cong because they suspect that she is a traitor. After the rape, her relationship with her village is destroyed, and she and her family are forced to move.
Her family moves to Saigon and she is employed by a family there. The master of the household misleads her into believing that he genuinely cares for her, and she falls for him and gets pregnant by him. The master's wife becomes enraged and Le Ly's whole family is forced to move back to their former province. There she meets Steve Butler, a Gunnery Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps. When she first meets him she is not interested in a boyfriend or marriage, having been through so much suffering. Steve falls for Le Ly and treats her very well, making a big difference in her life while in Vietnam.
The two leave Vietnam and move to the United States. Their life together begins well, but years of killing and life in the bush have taken their toll on Steve, who becomes uncontrollably violent. The relationship falters, despite Le Ly's attempts to reconcile with Steve. After an impassioned plea by Le Ly for Steve to come back to her, he commits suicide. Many years following this tragic experience, Le Ly returns to Vietnam with her sons and shows them where she came from.Tommy Lee Jones as Steve Butler
Joan Chen as Mama
Haing S. Ngor as Papa
Hiep Thi Le as Le Ly
Thuan K. Nguyen as Uncle Luc
Dustin Nguyen as Sau
Vinh Dang as Bon
Mai Le Ho as Hai
Dale Dye as Larry
Debbie Reynolds as Eugenia
Conchata Ferrell as Bernice
Heaven & Earth opened in 63 theaters on December 25, 1993. Its widespread release date was January 7, 1994, at which date it was playing in 781 theaters.
The film received mixed reviews, in contrast to Stone's other films and especially films like Platoon and JFK. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 47% of critics gave the film a positive review based on a sample of 17 reviews, with an average score of 5.2/10. Desson Howe of The Washington Post called the script "structurally clunky" and complained that the film "lacks a poetic center." James Berardinelli noted that the film "lacks much of the narrative strength" of Stone's other Vietnam films, particularly once Jones's character appears. Berardinelli also complained that flashbacks and voiceovers are overdone, although he did praise Stone for "a number of memorable camera shots."
Hiep Thi Le's performance received mixed reviews. Roger Ebert called her performance "extraordinary", and Desson Howe complimented her "authentic presence." James Berardinelli, however, called her "adequate, but not peerless" and noted that the emotional scenes reveal "the limits of her acting ability."
Heaven & Earth opened in 63 theaters and, for its opening weekend, earned $379,807. For its widespread release, it played in 781 theaters and, for the weekend, earned $1,703,179. The film has had gross domestic receipts of $5,864,949. It was a box office bomb earning only $5.9 million on a budget of $33 million.
The music, by composer Kitaro, won the 1993 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score.