John Lithgow as Reverend Alfred Dowd; Miranda Otto as Theoline Belknap; Hilary Swank as Mary Bee Cuddy; Tim Blake Nelson as Freighter; Meryl Streep as Altha Carter; William Fichtner as Vester Belknap; James Spader as Aloysius Duffy; Tommy Lee Jones as George Briggs; Barry Corbin as Buster Shaver; Jo Harvey Allen as Mrs. Polhemus; Jesse Plemons as Garn Sours; Evan Jones as Bob Giffen; David Dencik as Thor Svendsen; Caroline Lagerfelt as Netti Svendsen; Sonja Richter as Gro Svendsen
When three women living on the edge of the American frontier are driven mad by harsh pioneer life, the task of saving them falls to the pious, independent-minded Mary Bee Cuddy. Transporting the women by covered wagon to Iowa, she soon realizes just how daunting the journey will be, and employs a low-life drifter, George Briggs, to join her. The unlikely pair and the three women head east, where a waiting minister and his wife have offered to take the women in. But the group first must traverse the harsh Nebraska Territories marked by stark beauty, psychological peril and constant threat.