Review: Big Stone Gap

Big Stone Gap is a romantic comedy recently added to the Netflix lineup. If you haven't seen it, you're missing a gem of a movie.

Big Stone Gap has heart--and warmth, humor, romance, and a ton of emotion.

(If you don't have Netflix, you can find it on Amazon to rent or purchase.)

Starring Ashley Judd, the movie is based on the New York Times bestseller Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani.

What This Movie Isn't

This movie isn't about billionaires and glamour girls, and it's not set in an exciting big city. You won't find any gorgeous penthouses or mansions in this film.

What This Movie Is

The hero is a coal miner, and the heroine is a woman who finds herself past her youth, and not really understanding how love and life passed her by.

Set in the 1970's in a small town in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, Ave Maria Mulligan is a self-proclaimed spinster. After her mother's death, her friend the town lawyer gives her a letter her mother had written. That letter reveals a long-hidden secret that changes Ave's life and opens her eyes and mind to possibilities she never thought she had.

Ave's entire personality is revealed in a scene with Iva Lou Wade, her best friend played by Jenna Elfman. Iva Lou reads Ave's face, and what she says foreshadows the events that follow.


Patrick Wilson, nominated for many awards for his stage and theater work, is letter-perfect in the role of coal miner Jack MacChesney who carries a torch for Ave Maria.

Ashley Judd is perfect as Ave Maria Mulligan.

Whoopi Goldberg has made a latter-day career playing irascible older women who are as wise as they are irritable. She's great in this role.

Judith Ivey, also known for roles as stalwart middle-aged mothers, is wonderful as a matron in a coal-mining community and Jack's mom, Nan MacChesney.

Jenna Elfman portrays Iva Lou Wade, Ave's free-spirited best friend.

Anthony LaPaglia is Spec Broadwater, town lawyer and Ave's friend.

Jane Krakowski is the flaky Sweet Sue Tinsley who may end up as Jack's wife.

The beautiful Jasmine Guy is barely recognizable as the retiring and painfully shy mother of a local girl.


I may not have lived in a small coal-mining town, but I recognized Big Stone Gap. I "know" those people because I'm from a small town. I know towns like that.

The musical score is foot-tapping and catchy and so poignant at times that it twists the heart.

Last fall, Lakeshore Records released the soundtrack album featuring tracks from the film curated by the film’s writer and director, Adriana Trigiani, original music by John Leventhal, and track recorded for the film by Rosanne Cash. You can find the Big Stone Gap album on Amazon.

Track List
  • Seven Year Ache – Rosanne Cash
  • Rocky Island – Ralph Stanley
  • Shenandoah – Michael Trigiani, arrangement by Michael Trigiani
  • White Wings – If Birds Could Fly
  • The Morning After – John Leventhal
  • Lost Indian Papa – Joe Smiddy and The Reedy Creek Boys
  • Patchwork Sky – Michael Trigiani
  • Letters – John Leventhal
  • Flat Nickel – If Birds Could Fly
  • The Ballad of Red Fox – Michael Trigiani
  • Spec and Ave – John Leventhal
  • Selling Mutual’s – John Leventhal
  • The Lonesome Pine – Michael Trigiani
  • Barbara Allen – Rosanne Cash, arrangement by John Leventhal
All in all, this is a delightful movie that celebrates unrequited love that finally gets requited, if you will. I loved it.

Takeaway Truth

I write books with the premise that it's never too late to live happily ever after. That premise is what this movie is all about. Watch it. I think you'll love it.


  1. I didn't know this was a movie! I read the book--when it was new--and loved it. I have to get this.

    1. I loved the movie. I think you will too, Liz.