• Tender Mercies (Umbrella Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: August 1st, 2018.
    Director: Bruce Beresford
    Cast: Robert Duvall, Betty Buckley, Tess Harper, Ellen Barkin
    Year: 1983
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    Tender Mercies – Movie Review:

    Directed by Bruce Beresford and written by Horton Foote, Tender Mercies stars Robert Duvall as Mac Sledge, a middle-aged country and western singer whose career has seen significantly better days. He doesn’t draw the crowds that he once did and his fame is fleeting at best. Maybe not so surprisingly, Mac tends to take solace at the bottom of a bottle and starts drinking too much too often. This leads to some rather serious depression. However, he winds up falling into a bit of a romance with Rosa Lee (Tess Harper), the kindly owner of the hotel he’s been staying at and helping out at. Her son, Sonny (Allan Hubbard), also seems to like Mac, which makes things easier for all involved.

    Mac’s ex-wife, Dixie (Betty Buckley), doesn’t allow him access to their daughter, an eighteen-year-old named Sue Ann (Ellen Barkin). This isn’t just because of his current state, but also because of their tumultuous past. Their marriage wasn’t the most stable of unions. Eventually, things improve enough in Mac’s current life that he sobers up and shortly after, a reporter shows up wanting to do a story on him. From here, he starts to find his footing once again, but his past relationships with his ex and his daughter still haunt him.

    A poignant drama penned by the man best known for writing the big screen adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird, Tender Mercies should appeal to anyone who appreciates a good redemption story. Australian born director Bruce Beresford, who seems to have specialized in dramas more than anything else, having worked on mainstream hits like Driving Miss Daisy and harder edged fair like the excellent Breaker Morant and Black Robe, paces this picture very deliberately. At times as much a character study as anything else, the movie channels John Ford in a few spots both visually and thematically. Lots of very wide shots show off the country setting where the bulk of the movie takes place but even then, the emphasis remains on the human element of the picture.

    And it’s this human element, more than anything else, that makes Tender Mercies work as well as it does. The casting in the film is excellent. The bulk of the picture rests on Duvall’s more than capable shoulders. By this point he had some legitimate classics like Apocalypse Now and The Godfather films under his belt as well as plenty of fun genre stuff like Bullitt, True Grit and The Killer Elite. This sees him in a more pensive part, but one that suits his particular acting abilities very well. He is, in a word, believable and the movie is all the better for having him in the lead. The supporting work is also quite strong. Tess Harper is very likeable as the woman who manages to pull him out of his slump while both Betty Buckley and a young Ellen Barkin are more than fine as the ‘past’ that he can’t quite quit.

    The cinematography is very nice – pretty even – while the soundtrack suits the tone of the picture rather well. This is a slow film, one more concerned with performances that explore the humanity inherent in the script, but it’s quite well made and absolutely worth seeing.

    Tender Mercies – Blu-ray Review:

    Australia’s Umbrella Entertainment gives Tender Mercies a region free Blu-ray debut in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer that replicates the film’s original 1.85.1 theatrical aspect ratio and it looks excellent. There are a few minor compression artifacts in some of the darker scenes and a tiny bit of print damage here and there but nothing that will really stand out unless you’re looking for it for the purposes of writing a nit-picky review. There’s excellent texture here, and very impressive depth in many of the widescreen shots. Detail is strong throughout, especially those close-up shots, while the film’s naturally warm color palette is very nicely reproduced. The film retains a natural amount of film grain and shows no evidence of noise reduction. All in all, this is a very fine picture.

    The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track on the disc is fine. Dialogue is always easy to understand and the score sounds good. There are no issues with any hiss or distortion, the levels are fine as well. This isn’t a fancy mix, but it suits the tone of the picture just fine. Optional English subtitles are provided.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary by Bruce Beresford who talks about the film in quite a bit of detail. He talks about Duvall’s involvement not just as a leading man but as a producer as well, how they didn’t always see eye to eye, financing the film and more. There’s a lot of dead air here, however, which makes it a bit of a slog to get through.

    More interesting is the Miracles & Mercies featurette, which is made up of interviews with Beresford and Duvall, Tess Harper and Allan Hubbard as well as writer/co-producer Horton Foote. This piece runs thirty-three-minutes or so and it’s quite interesting. Again, we hear about how Duvall and Beresford got along during the production as well as some financing and distribution details but the cast members get to talk about their experiences playing their respective characters, offer thoughts on the film and look back on their work. Foote talks about what went into writing the piece and his thoughts on the effort as well.

    Aside from that, the disc also contains a theatrical trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection.

    Tender Mercies – The Final Word:

    Tender Mercies is a well-made drama that puts character first. It’s also quite technically proficient and very nicely shot. Duvall is great in the lead and the supporting players all do fine work as well. Umbrella Entertainment’s Blu-ray release is a good one. It looks and sounds quite good and contains a few interesting extras as well.

    Click on the images below for full sized Tender Mercies Blu-ray screen caps!