Tender Mercies (1983) - Rotten Tomatoes

Tender Mercies1983

Tender Mercies (1983)




Critic Consensus: Anchored by a deftly understated performance from Robert Duvall, Tender Mercies is a quiet character study that leaves a lasting emotional impact.

Tender Mercies Photos

Movie Info

Mac Sledge (Robert Duvall), a once-famous country western singer, wakes up broke, alone and hung over in a tiny Texas motel run by widowed Rosa Lee (Tess Harper). Having nowhere else to go, Sledge takes a job at the motel, and through the kindness and faith of Rosa he changes his self-destructive ways. He marries Rosa (after he's baptized at her urging) and becomes a father/pal to her son (Allan Hubbard). Given an opportunity to make a comeback, Sledge considers leaving his new family behind, but after a reunion with his own unhappy daughter (Ellen Barkin), he vows never again to ruin anyone else's life. A simple story simply told, Tender Mercies is a warm, persuasive tale of redemption, with Robert Duvall giving one of his finest performances. Also appearing is Betty Buckley as Duvall's ex-wife, a Dolly Parton-type country star, and Wilford Brimley as Duvall's former manager. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Robert Duvall
as Mac Sledge
Tess Harper
as Rosa Lee Wadsworth
Betty Buckley
as Dixie Scott
Ellen Barkin
as Sue Anne
Lenny Von Dohlen
as Robert Dennis
Paul Gleason
as Reporter
Michael Crabtree
as Lewis Menefee
Norman Bennett
as Rev. Hotchkiss
Jerry Biggs
as Man at Bar
Sheila Bird
as Concessionaire
Eli Cummins
as Doorman
Tony Frank
as Man at Motel
Pat Minter
as Man at Dixie's House
Oliver Seal
as Man at Dixie's House
Berkley H. Garrett
as Man at Dixie's House
Helena Humann
as Woman with Groceries
Barbara Jones
as Country Woman
Jerry Jones
as Country Man
Robert Stewart
as Concessionaire
Robert P. Kelley
as Choirmaster
Ray LePere
as Man in Bar
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Critic Reviews for Tender Mercies

All Critics (25) | Top Critics (1)

Tender Mercies won Robert Duvall his only Academy Award in six nominations. It contains one of his most understated performances. It's mostly done with his eyes.

June 19, 2018 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

An unfussy and unassuming gem.

August 16, 2020 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Tender Mercies' ultimate miracle is its faith in the audience. It assumes, perhaps unreasonably, that we are not so canned overblown effects that we cannot pick up on its quiet rhythms.

February 27, 2020 | Full Review…

It's not bad, but none of it makes a difference. [Full Review in Spanish]

September 24, 2019 | Full Review…

He's found no miracles in the good country life, in the Bible, or even in the love of a good woman. But the astonishing purity of Duvall's performance, itself a kind of marvel, allows us to believe that Sledge has found a home.

September 19, 2019 | Full Review…

An anti-Hollywood drama that glitters in its subdued form because it's a real gem.

May 5, 2008 | Rating: A- | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Tender Mercies

This Duvall piece influenced a lot of similar films in the future. A lot has been mined out of the "cowboy has difficulty in the modern world" storyline but they all reasonate universally.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

"Tender Mercies" is a very minimalist effort from director Bruce Beresford, who moves the film along at a calm and unhurried pace. As well, Robert Duvall gives an endearing and honest performance that resonates with every word that he says. Overall, the impact that "Tender Mercies" has on the viewer is not lasting, but watching it is a pleasant experience.

Stephen Earnest
Stephen Earnest

Super Reviewer

Robert Duvall delivers a great, oscar-winning performance in a film that is actually worthy of it (as opposed to "The Great Santini"). Hell, even the kid (Allen Hubbard) does a good job. Duvall plays an alcholic country singer who, after waking up in a desolate country farmhouse/gas station/motel, decides to stay on and help out the owner (who is a single mother) when he can't afford to pay off his bill. Obviously, the two fall in love and get married (their relationship is formed so quickly they're already married before the movie is ten minutes in), and she helps him sober up and straighten out his life. It's interesting to see how subdued or distant the wife (Tess Harper) is. One of the closing scenes, where Duvall's character has a breakdown, any other movie wife would run to him and hug and comfort him, but this woman (who appears in the corner of the screen), merely turns and walks away. For such a loving wife, it's rather strange behavior (in fact, it leads one to question whether she really loves him, or married him just because he provided a role model for her son). His ex-wife stands in stark contrast, she's driven purely by her music career and doesn't seem to care about anything else. She's a woman who seemingly has it all, but really has nothing, whereas he is someone who appears to have nothing but really has everything he could ever want. He doesn't covet his ex wife's success. Their daughter (Ellen Barkin) is kept from him until at 18, she decides to look him up for herself. It's such a slow-moving, simple tale and yet it feels realistic, like it could've been made-for-television by Robert Altman. Duvall is convincing as a country music singer, and does a good job performing the songs in the movie. Tender Mercies would make a nice contrasting companion piece for Altman's "Nashville", if someone were in the mood for country & western, slice-of-life.

Devon Bott
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer

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