That Evening Sun

That Evening Sun

 

This is for Hal Holbrook what “Starting Out in the Evening” was for Frank Langella a few years back. You know, that film you didn’t see that came out just before you started seeing Frank pop up in beefy roles everywhere. It is a film tailored to the performance of a great aging star. Not incredibly deep (notice how both titles refer to “evening”—you know, the sunset years before kaput!) but ultimately rewarding because the actor that is the film’s vehicle knows himself and he knows his years.

Hal Holbrook is a gifted actor who has been acting for a remarkable number of years. He is perhaps best known for his ongoing portrayal of Mark Twain (I believe he may currently be involved in a production on some stage in Connecticut somewhere), and I certainly am not the only one who remembers him fondly from his segment in “Creepshow.” He has been working consistently since 1954 and has even dabbled in directing…well, he directed four episodes of “Designing Women.”

The story surrounding “That Evening Sun” goes something like this: We meet Abner Meecham (Hal Holbrook) sitting alone in an old folks home. To him, it is like waiting to die. It looks as if he is waiting to die. So he leaves. While the home and his son try and track him down, he manages to hitch a ride to his house, which his son has already leased to Lorenzo Choat (Ray McKinnon), someone of whom he is not that fond of. And, with him being only gone three months, Abner is a bit surprised to see his house and farm already with tenants.

There is no love lost between Abner and Lonzo, who have a checkered past together. Abner moves into the sharecropper’s house (much to Lonzo’s dismay), and the rest of the film plays out as a man trying to take back what is his, and is a test of wills between Lonzo and Abner.

Now, Abner seems rather very capable and self reliant, but it seems he had an accident with ice some years back which took him a while to recover from, and he as he did so, he realized he would no longer be able to tend to the barn. Lonzo isn’t much better. He doesn’t have a job, and lives off a settlement for an injury over a decade old. But he wants a new start. He thinks he can run the farm. It is fairly clear he can’t and this movie will contain no magic that can do anything about that.

Walton Goggins plays Abner’s son and was also one of the producer’s on the picture. The role is a rather short one, but pivotal in its way. Walton’s Paul is just removed enough that he can view his father’s living conditions as a hindrance on his attorney lifestyle, yet there is a light in his eyes and throughout his performance which is strong enough to convey that he is looking at his father, and a bit lost and confused. The movie doesn’t give Paul anybody else to help him work out what to do with Abner.

It is surely Goggins role as producer which allows for a Drive By Truckers heavy soundtrack (he is a big fan) and Patterson Hood’s vocals do well to guide this movie along.

When the film ended I was unsure about how much I liked it. There was a lot I did, and there were a lot of choices I didn’t agree with. I think it works best in its humorous moments; it isn’t as assured when it goes darker and dramatic and Holbrook’s confession I felt unnecessary, however I loved the repetitive strategy that director Scott Teems uses to deal with violence and memory. And of course, there is Hal. And Hal’s worth watching.

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