This is a very unusual film. It's theme is spiritual regeneration, hardly a popular topic in mainstream cinema. Robert Duvall portrays an alcoholic in the process of reform. It's a gentle film, so understated as to be banal at times. The landscape is tough, the life is hard and change comes slowly. The film is more like a play in its subtlety and lack of spectacular action. It manages to be melancholy, profound and uplifting - a really special American story.
A gentle quiet film, wonderfully written by Horton Foote, and featuring a magnificent performance by Robert Duvall as an alcoholic ex-country singer star, who rediscovers himself by finding a family.
Ordinarily this kind of upbeat view could be treacly, or seem like a Hollywood simplification. But here it's simultaneously rich and sparse, and even in a world where life is ultimately good, there are still tragedies big and small, broken hearts and terrible losses. This is that rare `feel good' film that earns the right.
The supporting work by Tess Harper and Betty Buckley is worth mentioning as well, as is Bruce Beresford's understated but always effective and evocative direction.
But ultimately it's Foote's screenplay, set in a world where predictability and cliche are the usual, that manages to pull off the almost impossible and create something unique, tender, and new.
As the story opens, washed-up country singer Mac (Robert Duvall) is dead drunk in a shabby Texas motel room. With no money to pay the bill, he starts working for the widow (Tess Harper) who runs the place. Once he stops drinking, he starts liking life again and becomes close to the woman and her young son. Not one to talk about himself or the past, she doesn't know that he was once a big star.
This is a wonderful, beautiful story. Duvall excels at playing honest, straightforward characters that are completely lacking in artifice and is convincing as the silent, pained has-been. His compelling performance earned Best Actor Oscar in 1984. This was Tess Harper's first movie but she acts like a pro; she effortlessly portrays the simple, hardworking woman who is grateful for the tender mercies, or blessings, in her life. The two stars make you feel like you've really been to rural Texas and gotten to know and care about the folks there. The movie is quite similar in mood to "The Last Picture Show," with characters that say what they mean and know who they are.
This is a quiet, touching, and utterly engaging movie about interesting people. Heartily recommended.
My boyfriend wanted us to watch this movie as he is a big fan of Robert Duvall. I didn't think I was going to like it but it won me over.
It is a gentle understated love story. Robert Duvall won a well deserved Acadamey Award for his performance as Mac Sledge, a self destructive alcoholic and country singer who finds a new meaning to life through the love of a good woman, Rosa Lee played with feeling by Tess Harper.
As with all good love stories there are a few complications which makes the plot more interesting.
This is one of my all time favourite films.I would normally have given it a 5 star rating and said it deserved at least 5 more.This is a film where every word of dialogue,line of music is important and adds to the whole understanding of the film.So i was disappointed to find at the end of the film that the song,"You"re the best thing that ever happened to me,"is missing.Played as the film closes,we"re left knowing that Mac Sledge has found true happiness with his new family.The song is missing from this version,maybe because it"s a european release,and we"re left with an irritating pice of music that says and means nothing.Apart from that this film looks and sounds stunning on blu-ray.The quality is a vast improvement on the dvd release i have.I hope that when this is officially released on blu-ray in the u.k.,the missing song will have been restored and i can give this film the 5 star rating it truly deserves.
Watching Tender Mercies again on DVD I was struck by how restrained and low key it was, a rare thing in a Hollywood movie, but all the better for it. The acting, even that of Duvall, never dominates the film and is totally honest and real. I particularly liked the performance of Tess Harper as the motel owner, beautifully underplayed, authentic, and completely in service to the film. We've seen all these characters many times before but never so convincingly and truthfully as here. There is a lovely innocence and shyness to the boys in the country and western band who idolise Duvall's Mac Sledge and it never tips over into mawkishness and cliche as Mac plays one last gig. This could have been handled so clumsily but is never allowed to overdevelop and Mac's comeback gently recedes as he settles for the life he's found. The other supporting characters are also played with humility and a genuine human frailty that is totally faithful to real lived experience. The film could so easily have been an emotion drenched piece of Hollywood schlock but as you'd expect with the subtle screenplay of Horton Foote and the tender direction of Bruce Beresford, the tone and emotional control is beautifully pitched. Duvall has always been one of the most charismatic screen presences of his era, even with his small cameo in To Kill A Mockingbird we knew he was something special, and this is one of his defining roles in a distinguished career. He could so easily have over-acted the part but he plays Mac with dignity and restraint. I've deducted one star for the editing as I feel somehow that the cutting doesn't quite feel right. Was it originally edited for T.V. perhaps ?
An excellent low key drama which revolves around the character of Mac, a washed up county singer who wakes up in a motel room after a night of binge drinking. Unable to pay his bill he offers to work for the owner, a young widow who has a son, and after the couple begin a relationship and Mac turns his back on fame and settles into a more emotionally fulling life, it's not long before his past comes back to haunt him. The acting is top notch and the gentle story hooks you from start to end. An absolute classic.