Tender Mercies [1983]

Director: Bruce Beresford
Stars: Robert Duvall, Tess Harper, Betty Buckley, Wilford Brimley, Ellen Barkin
Genre: Drama, Music
Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Runtime: 92 minutes

Sometimes everything comes together in a movie and it becomes something so much greater than the sum of its parts that it can only be described as a miracle. That's the case with Tender Mercies, a quietly luminous character piece about an alcoholic, washed-up country singer named Mac Sledge (Robert Duvall in an Oscar-winning performance) who hits bottom in a motel room one night and then slowly finds his way back into the land of the living with the help of the widow (Tess Harper) and her young son. It's a low-key, contemplative film that feels like a rural American family comedy in the vein of the great Japanese director, Yasujiro Ozu. Tender Mercies was directed by Australian Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy, Breaker Morant), written by Horton Foote (To Kill a Mockingbird), who won an Oscar for his screenplay, and has an unbeatable cast. This is one of Duvall's most intimate and deeply personal performances, matched only by his debut 14 years later as actor-writer-director in The Apostle. --Jim Emerson

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