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Tender Mercies

Robert Duvall's worthy Oscar-winning performance is just one of the great treasures of this quiet, beautiful movie. Duvall stars as has-been country & western singer Mac Sledge, run down by drink and stranded at a remote Texas motel. Broke, Mac offers to work off his room and board, and the widowed owner (Tess Harper) accepts — on the condition that he gives up his volatile, boozing ways. Director Bruce Beresford takes an unusually gentle and patient approach to Horton Foote's thoughtful screenplay, and while at first Tender Mercies might seem like your average kitchen-sink story of redemption, before you know it the refreshing lack of cynicism creeps up and the fine balance struck between painful regrets and warmth of intention creates a transcendent experience. Duvall is perfect as a grizzled failure struggling to regain his self-esteem, and Harper's plain, stoic desperation makes the ideal counterweight to keep his troubled soul on the straight and narrow. Also remarkably good is young Alan Hubbard as Harper's son Sonny, a rare child actor devoid of grating precociousness. With only a hint of foul language, Tender Mercies is that rare movie that is not only suitable for the entire family, but also offers an invaluable perspective on how to filter the tough breaks life can throw your way. Anchor Bay's release of Tender Mercies features a good 1.77:1 anamorphic transfer and Dolby Digital mono audio mix, with the addition of a fine half-hour retrospective featuring affectionate interviews with Duvall, Harper, Hubbard, Beresford and Foote. Trailer, keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr



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