Bruce Beresford is one of Australia’s most accomplished filmmakers, one who has been celebrated several times by distributor Umbrella Entertainment via quality releases of his early works on home media. Earlier this month, Beresford’s American debut feature Tender Mercies arrived on Blu-ray, a sombre tale of a middle-aged country singer looking for respect and purpose after the conclusion of his struggle with fame.
With the big studio landscape changing, making more room for potential blockbusters like Scarface, it’s no wonder that Tender Mercies came and went without barely entering the conversation among audiences. Had it been made ten years earlier, I’m sure it would have resonated more with people. Fortunately, the film did not go entirely unnoticed, picking up two Academy Awards (Best Actor and Best Screenplay) out of six nominations at the 1984 Oscars. Robert Duvall delivers a poignant performance as protagonist Mac Sledge, a man wondering where it all went wrong who, finds love in single mother Rosa Lee (Tess Harper), owner of a remote gas station motel. The film’s modest location on the flat plains of Texas, serves as the basis of starting again for our characters, symbolic of the freshly harvested lands that surrounds them. Horton Foote’s screenplay is one of pondering nature, which asks the simplest of life’s questions whilst exploring a person’s need for answers and sense of identity. Allan Hubbard as Rosa Lee’s child, Sonny, is a connecting spark between Mac and his mother, while portraying a matureness realistic among children raised by a single parent. I found the ease our trio have with each other among the film best and most uplifting qualities.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
I was instantly impressed with the picture on this modest release. Sharpness and film grain/texture are prominent throughout, befitting with the film’s atmosphere of and pallet of dry colours. Each strum of our protagonist’s guitar can be hear as though if it were a live performance, despite Tender Mercies being a relatively quiet film. However, the discs 2.0 DTS-HD MA track picks up the natural sounds quite well between character dialogue.
Bruce Beresford was mention to me and I thought, well who is that? And they said, well he’s Australian and I thought, oh my god. – Writer/Co-Producer, Horton Foote
- Audio Commentary by Director Bruce Beresford
- Miracle & Mercies featurette, featuring interviews with stars Robert Duvall, Tess Harper and Allan Hubbard, Director Bruce Beresford and Writer/Co-Producer Horton Foote
- Theatrical Trailer
Produced by Blue Underground and Anchor Bay in 2002, Miracles and Mercies runs for approximately 33 minutes and provides some meaningful retrospective insight into the making-of process and the film itself. Horton Foote is hilariously candid in his anecdote of how Australian filmmaker Bruce Beresford came to direct Tender Mercies, following script’s rejection throughout Hollywood.
Much like the film’s theatrical run, Tender Mercies came in under the radar amongst Umbrella’s diverse August line-up of titles. Not to take away from the label’s flagship release of Razorback, but this Bruce Beresford classic stands firmly on its own and is very much deserving of your time.
Note: Tender Mercies is also available on DVD from Umbrella Entertainment.
(1983, dir: Bruce Beresford)