I haven’t delved into my personal life much on this blog, yet as sure as I’ve written every word myself, you can be sure each word came from sensibility as unique as yours, shaped, as all sensibilities are, by the people and places and experiences which make up a life. One’s mother, it is often assumed, is a major influence on one’s tastes, experiences, morality, and overall character. Such was the case for me.
8 days ago–October the 20th–my mother passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer. While, especially in retrospect, the fact that her time was running short was sadly apparent, it was still something of a shock that she went from living her life as usual (within the constraints imposed on her by her weakened condition, which were not enough to stop her from going to work), to losing her strength, then her consciousness, and then finally her life, in so short a timespan. Tuesday she went to work; Friday she went to the hospital; Monday (in the wee hours) she passed away.
Now, she was not quite the film buff I or my father am, but she liked movies, and there were a few she frequently cited as favorites. Two of them, Excalibur (arguably the greatest Arthurian film) and Never Cry Wolf (an amazingly beautiful portrait of life in the Arctic), I had previously seen and well admired. But she held Tender Mercies in exceptional regard; she would often say it was simply a “perfect” film. And with her passing, it seemed to me that the best tribute I could offer would be to review it, since I’d never seen it. That meant pushing back a number of other posts–but I think I can allow it.
Now, do I think Tender Mercies is a perfect film? No. But it is a sweet, unpretentious, thoughtful little look at lives in a minor key, a film which overcame its own obstacles to win two Oscars (Best Actor for Robert Duvall and Best Original Screenplay for Horton Foote). That it has since fallen somewhat into obscurity is a shame, but thanks to Mom, I was hardly ignorant of it. And it’s an oddly appropriate choice for this occasion, as I’ll explain.