Tender Mercies (1983)

Tender Mercies (1983)

“Every night when I say my prayers and I thank the Lord for his blessings and his tender mercies, you and Sonny hit the list.”

A former country music star (Robert Duvall) starts a new life with a young widow (Tess Harper) and her son (Allan Hubbard).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Character Studies
  • Has-Beens
  • Musicians
  • Robert Duvall Films
  • Romance

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary seems less than impressed with this Oscar-winning film, directed by Bruce Bereford and written by Pulitzer-prize winning playwright Horton Foote. In his review, he argues that “the attempt at realistic dialogue between common people who aren’t pretentious often comes across as pretentious”, but I disagree: Tender Mercies is a fable-like, episodic character study rather than an exercise in realism, and I find the sparse dialogue to be appropriate. Duvall is both sympathetic and believable as a man so burnt-out on fame and fortune that he gladly finds redemption in the form of a sweet, simple, religious woman; his interactions with Hubbard (a wonderfully natural child actor) are especially poignant. Even more impressive, however, is the way in which Foote’s screenplay never takes obvious turns: we fully expect Mac to start drinking again once he steps back into the world of country music, but our expectations are foiled. Although it ends on a melancholy note, Tender Mercies is a surprisingly feel-good film, one which is guaranteed to leave a lasting impression.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Robert Duvall’s sympathetic performance as Mac
  • Betty Buckley as Mac’s ex-wife
  • Beautiful cinematography of Texas landscapes
  • Horton Foote’s refreshingly uncliched screenplay
  • Some genuinely touching country music songs

Must See?
Yes, simply for Duvall’s Oscar-winning performance.


  • Noteworthy Performance(s)
  • Oscar Winner or Nominee


One thought on “Tender Mercies (1983)

  1. Just rewatched this.

    A must!

    A perfectly realized film. Couldn’t be more real. ’nuff said.

    [Fave scene: the whole dang thing! 😉 ]

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