Cast: Hal Holbrook, Ray McKinnon, Barry Corbin
Extras: Uncommentary Track, Featurettes, Interviews
Hal Holbrook first caught my attention in the early 1980's. As a huge horror movie fan, his roles in 'The Fog' and 'Girls Night Out' (a.k.a. 'The Creeper') have always stuck with me. Who could forget the timid character Henry Northrup blasting loud mouthed Billie's (Adrienne Barbeau) head with a 44-Magnum in 'Creepshow'? After falling off of my radar for some time, Hal came roaring back with an Academy Award nominated turn in Sean Penn's outstanding 'Into The Wild'. Along with some supporting roles on television, Hal starred in 'That Evening Sun', a film currently out on Blu-Ray. How does an Emmy and Tony winning actor stroll in the twilight of his career? If 'That Evening Sun' is any indication, he does it with a swagger.
Abner Meecham (Hal Holbrook) longs for freedom. The jail of a nursing home is too much for this strong opinioned, grumpy man so he gathers his belongings and walks out. After making his way back to the family farm, Abner quickly has to face some heavy life lessons. His son Paul (Walton Goggins) is leasing the homestead to Lonzo (Ray McKinnon), a town screw-up whom Abner has a bitter hatred for. Lonzo feels he has obtained the property fair and square, explaining to Abner that the farm is going to be changing hands despite his opinions. Abner is a stubborn man who doesn't take kindly to the news. Facing a family betrayal, an enemy from his past, and the potential loss of his farm, this old dog shows he has a few new tricks up his sleeve.
Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth) summed up Abner's troubles best by stating, "Well, the worst part of being old is rememberin' when you was young". 'The Straight Story' and 'That Evening Sun' may be films that are a decade removed from one another, but they both deal with the struggles of aging. While Alvin learned his lessons riding on a lawn mower, Abner found his struggles much closer to home. His hatred for Lonzo runs deep. Abner's old body is unable to keep up with his stubborn mind, giving Lonzo a bit of an edge. Age becomes an X-factor that makes things more difficult for Abner; However, watching these men from different generations dig their heels in to make a point provides an interesting slow burn drama. As viewers, we can see both sides of the issue. Lonzo is trying to turn over a new leaf and Abner feels he owns the tree. The men take southern pride to an epic level. Their rivalry comes off like a tornado, twisting and turning into a violent mess that affects everyone around them. 'That Evening Sun' is the battle of wills at its finest.
Image has released 'That Evening Sun' with a 2.35:1, 1080p Blu-Ray transfer and the results are great. Combining the numerous sunlit outdoor scenes with a high definition camera provides the film with a depth and beauty that really enhances the viewing experience. The lush greens and warm days are complimented by outstanding facial detail. Though he may not be happy about the level of detail, one could count the age spots on Barry Corbin's bald head with a great deal of accuracy. Flesh tones were accurate and black levels were solid. 'That Evening Sun' is a great looking film.
The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is a treat as well. It may not be reference quality material, but one would be hard pressed to find a dialogue heavy drama with better sound. There is an ambience to the track which adds to the Tennessee farm. Plenty of crickets and background noise help engulf viewers in the experience without sacrificing dialogue levels. From Nipper's bark to Abner's growl, this 5.1 track delivers the goods.
An odd addition kicks off the special features. 'That Evening Sun' may have the first 'Anti-Commentary' on a disc. Writer/Director Scott Teems voices his displeasure for commentaries as he feels that the film should stand on its own merit. It is a philosophy similar to one taken by David Lynch, but rather than exclude extra features Teems brings Director of Photography Rodney Taylor and Editor Travis Sittard in for a feature length recording. The track (dominated by Teems) starts out a bit heavy with opinions on extra features, but does manages to balance out a bit with some production details. 'That Tennessee Sun…: The Making of That Evening Sun" (9:12) couples behind-the-scenes footage with some musical cues to give viewers a surface look at production on the film. For a more detailed look, "The Art & Craft of That Evening Sun' (34:01) is an audio podcast turned featurette that has a primary focus of one scene. Unfortunately, the audio information is paired up with stills giving the featurette a bit of a static feel. With Cast Interviews (30:07) and Crew Interviews (46:19), and the Theatrical Trailer (2:24), a disc that shouldn't have had any extra features certainly provides a fair amount of additional insight.
I really enjoyed 'That Evening Sun'. The film is beautifully shot and the acting is outstanding. Hal Holbrook delivers a top notch performance that truly deserved an Oscar nomination. Image has released a Blu-Ray showcasing a strong audio and video presentation with a decent amount of extras thrown in. Whether you go for the regular cover or variant 'Night' cover, 'That Evening Sun' deserves a spin in your player ASAP.