Thursday, October 28, 2010

 

No adult wants to surrender his autonomy


By Edward Copeland
That Evening Sun spent more time on the festival circuit than it did in actual release, but for a small film such as this, that's to be expected, despite another great late-inning performance from Hal Halbrook as an 80-year-old man who escapes his nursing home to return to his farm and reclaim it as his own even though he's discovered his son (Walton Goggins) has leased it to a down-on-their-luck family with plans to sell.


Based on William Gay's short story "I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down," Holbrook plays Abner Meecham, sickened that he's been confined to a nursing home by his successful lawyer son (Goggins), makes his way back to the Tennessee farm that still bears his name. He isn't pleased to find that living in his house is a man who he thinks been no good since he was a teen, Lonzo Choat (Ray McKinnon), who now has a wife, Ludie (Carrie Preston), and a daughter, Pamela (Mia Wasikowska).

While the women try to be kind to the unexpected arrival, telling him that his son gave them a three-month lease on the property, Choat is not as charitable and he and the old man start butting heads immediately. Choat feels Abner should leave ASAP, slightly difficult since the Choats haven't paid their phone bill and there's no way he could call someone even if he wanted to leave.

Abner takes up residence in the tenant house where Choat has dumped all Meecham's leftover possessions and the two keep verbally sparring, especially since Choat spends most of his time drunk and even abuses his wife and daughter at one point, leading Abner to walk to a neighbor (Barry Corbin) and have the police come and arrest him.

Written and directed by Scott Teems, That Evening Sun proves to be a pleasant enough slice of life but it's Holbrook who holds it together. No matter what the age of the adult, if he or she still has mental faculties, nothing proves more frustrating that having others try to make decisions for you such as where or how you should live, especially when you still have enough wits about you to know that you know better than they do.

Granted, Abner does need some practical aid getting along in life, but his son carries bitterness and is treating him like a price for past wrongs. I can relate to that very personally. Still, even though I can relate to Abner, that doesn't mean I think this is a great movie by any means, just a situation with parallels to my own, even though I'm half Abner's age.

Another aspect of the film that's quite touching is the wordless appearance in flashbacks of the late Dixie Carter, Holbrook's real-life wife, as Abner's late wife. It must make the film a particularly meaningful piece for Holbrook.

Co-stars Goggins and McKinnon also produced the film much as they did the Oscar-winning live-action short The Accountant in 2001 with Lisa Blount, though thanks to silly Oscar rules Goggins, so great on TV's The Shield, only got to go on stage while McKinnon and Blount are the only officially credited winners who received statuettes. (By pure coincidence, Blount, McKinnon's wife and also an actress best known for An Officer and a Gentleman, has been found dead at age 53.)

Though the budget on That Evening Sun must have been small, it does contain a very nice look by cinematographer Rodney Taylor and an evocative score by Michael Penn.

In the end though, the movie belongs to Holbrook. He's always been good, but it's pretty amazing the performances he's been giving in his twilight years, not only here, but in the episode "The Fleshy Party of the Thigh" from the first part of The Sopranos' final season and his Oscar-nominated role in Into the Wild.


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Comments:
Fine review, Ed. I will definitely check this film out. Very sad to hear of Lisa Blount's dead today. May she RIP.
 
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