Tomorrow (1971) (Blu-ray)

Life’s but a walking shadow.

Pretty much everyone agrees that Robert Duvall is a great actor and everyone likes him. Though he may not have that fan adoration the huge celebrities garner, Duvall has his admirers and a lifetime of memorable performances. For years, he’s maintained one of his personal favorites was the lesser-known 1972 film Tomorrow, now making its debut on Blu-ray.

Duvall plays Jackson Fentry, a simple-minded sawmill worker living in a small town in the early 1900s. When a pregnant woman (Olga Bellin, Another World) is abandoned on the roadside by her husband, Jackson takes her in. Over time, the two grow closer and closer, but what kind of future will they have?

Filmed in black and white with a lot of long slow takes, Tomorrow was created with nostalgia in mind to evoke the films of an earlier era. Watching it today, it’s easy to view it as merely an “old movie,” but then you realize this was made the same year as The French Connection, and you can see just how committed the filmmakers were to their conceit. This old-fashioned feeling bleeds through everything, from the visuals to the performances. The script is based on a story by William Faulkner, and the movie’s old-timey feel is meant to capture Faulkner’s authorial style.

At the center of Tomorrow is Duvall, and his deep-down rednecked performance. Because I’m a movie guy, my mind is always drawing connections between this movie and that, so I couldn’t help but be reminded of Billy Bob Thornton’s chameleonic performance in Sling Blade, which had a lot of the same rhythms and cadences. Then I remembered Duvall’s cameo in Sling Blade, and the similarities are no coincidence. Duvall speaks in a hard slow drawl, emphasizing each syllable. This is the type of movie where everyone says “up yonder” when they could just say “over there.” That hillbilly nature might be unintentionally humorous for some, but you have to respect Duvall and the cast for their dedication.

This is a slow movie, with a lot of long silences. Much the acting is done not through dialogue but in the way the characters stand, walk, move, and look at each other. The performances are achieved in those brief moments between spoken words, as they react and think about what’s been said. I’m well aware that watching characters sit around a table being sad and quiet is not a lot of people’s idea of a good time, but if you let yourself get engrossed, it can be quite rewarding.

Tomorrow (Blu-ray) was taken from the Museum of Modern Art collection, and the restored 1.85:1/1080p HD transfer looks absolutely pristine, with razor sharp detail. Stunning considering how old and relatively obscure this film is. The LPCM 2.0 Mono audio isn’t as much of a standout, but it works. The film’s trailer and a standard def DVD copy are the only extras.

This slow, meditative drama isn’t for everyone—especially those who prefer movies about bikini models shooting machine guns while riding motorcycles—but Tomorrow is well made, rich with nostalgia, and serves up a great performance by Robert Duvall.

The Verdict

Naw guil’.

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