Tender Mercies

This 1983 male melodrama acquires some class from Robert Duvall's determined underplaying, but the formula is so familiar by now—father and son learn to express their feelings while the screenplay neatly shunts mom aside—that it's probably beyond redemption. Australian director Bruce Beresford (Breaker Morant) shoots in the somber, leaden “prestige” style, holding each of his static shots for an eternity and compacting the Texas landscape into arty compositions via space-flattening telephoto lenses. His cold, unstressed treatment of the highly charged material is regrettably typical of melodrama in the 80s—it's a film about emotion that's afraid to communicate emotion. With Tess Harper, Betty Buckley, and Wilford Brimley.

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