Friday, July 18, 2008

The sun'll come out

TCM's prime time lineup tonight consists of three movies set in Mississippi. The third of them, airing at 12:15 AM ET (technically tomorrow for those of us in the East; still tonight for people in other time zones) is the little-known but very affecting 1972 movie Tomorrow. It last aired on TCM back in April, and I tuned in not knowing anything about the movie. It's based on a story by William Faulkner (who, to be honest, I don't particularly like as a writer) which was turned into a play by Horton Foote (who also wrote the play for The Trip to Bountiful and the screenplay for To Kill a Mockingbird). I don't know why I didn't change the channel when Robert Osborne mentioned that Tomorrow is based on a Faulkner story, but I'm glad I didn't.

Robert Duvall is the star of the movie, playing a simple, poor man. At the beginning, we see him as the lone holdout juror in a 1930s murder trial, and his holdout causes a mistrial. However, Tomorrow is no 12 Angry Men styled jury movie; the jury deliberations are just a frame for the actual story, which is supposed to explain why Duvall votes the way he does. In that story, set twenty years before the murder trial, Duvall's poor man goes to work as the winter watchman at a sawmill, living a bare existence in a one-room shack, although he's got the offer of better prospects once the sawmill stars up again in the spring. It's Christmas Eve, and like James Stewart in It's A Wonderful Life, he's about to be thrown a curveball. In Duvall's case, it's Olga Bellin, playing a pregnant woman who's been treated harshly and abandoned by her husband. Duvall offers to help take care of the woman until she has the baby, and in doing so, falls in love with her. Of course, there's a rather big problem in this, in that she's still married, and since this is the 1910s, divorce is taboo. Things are about to get a whole lot worse for Duvall, though. To mention how would unfortunately be to give the plot away.

What I can say, however, is that Tomorrow is a movie well worth watching. Duvall gives an outstanding and moving performance which in many ways reminds me of Billy Bob Thonrton in Sling Blade, albeit with the big difference of Duvall's character not being mentally deficient. Bellin is also quite good as the weak and sick pregnant woman; for once, pregnancy on the silver screen looks something like it does in real life, and not the way it was normally portrayed under the studio system, when allegeldy nine month pregnant women loooked maybe four or five months along, and still looked radiant in gowns by Adrian and makeup by Max Factor. No, Bellin's preganat woman is decidedly unglamorous. The rest of the performances are fine, but are much smaller roles compared to the two main ones. The one minor problem is with the print. When TCM showed Tomorrow back in April, the print looked almost like a TV movie instead of a feature film. This may, hoewver, be the way the movie was originally made; it was an independent production by a company called Filmgroup that seems to have made little else. (Don't let the print quality put you off, however. I still give it a very strong recommendation.) Tomorrow is available on DVD, although being an obscure independent film it's got lower interest, leading to a more limited DVD print run and corresponding higher prices. This being an obscure movie, there weren't many images online to illustrate the post; the few I could find all come from the Ferdy on Films blog.

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