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Tomorrow - drama DVD / suspense DVD review
TOMORROW Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 5 stars
Actors: Robert Duvall, Olga Bellin, Sudie Bond, Richard McConnell
Director: Joseph Anthony   Studio: Homevision
DVD release: 04 May 2004   Runtime: 103 minutes (1 disc)
Format: Black & White, DVD-Video, NTSC
DVD Features: Audio tracks (English), New digital transfer, A conversation with Robert Duvall and Horton Foote, William Faulkner's 1940 short story and accompanying illustrations by artist Floyd Davis from The Saturday Evening Post, Liner notes by film critic Sheila Benson (Los Angeles Times, Variety, Interview), Original theatrical trailer

In Horton Foote's adaptation of William Faulkner's drama, Robert Duvall gives a superb performance that portends the long career of a consummate actor. The story opens in a courtroom, one man a holdout in a case where a father is accused of killing his daughter's boyfriend to protect her honor. The thwarted lawyer sets out to learn more about the juror, Jackson Fentry (Robert Duvall), who singlehandedly assures a mistrial: "If I had known then what I know now, he would never have been on the jury."

Twenty years earlier in the early 1900s, a taciturn loner in Mississippi, Fentry takes a job as caretaker on a Tupelo sawmill. The place is silent, the sound of Fentry chopping wood the only disruption as a winter chill sets in the day before Christmas. Fentry seems reasonably content with his lot. Preparing to walk the thirty-one miles to his father's farm for the holiday, Fentry is distracted by moaning coming from the sawmill, where he discovers a pregnant woman. Helping her to her feet, he realizes she is unwell and escorts her to the warmth of his shack.

In this simple scene the emotional tone is established, Fentry gentling the woman as though she is a frightened animal, offering her the use of his shack until the baby's birth. What transpires from this first meeting to the birth of the child is a testament to the basic good of humanity and Fentry's infinite capacity for love - completely unexpected in one who has endured much hardship and deprivation.

Sarah (Olga Bellin) is a rare screen presence: tentative, unassuming, afraid of dying in childbirth, abandoned by her husband and cast out by her father and three brothers after her marriage. Finding respite with Fentry, Sarah trusts him without reservation, exacting his promise to raise her child should she succumb in the delivery.

What evolves is pure Faulkner, a dark drama that that exposes a desperate society, as bereft of humor as times would dictate, hardscrabble people tilling reluctant soil. After the birth, Fentry accepts the baby boy as his own son, returning to his papa's farm to raise the child. His small life made large by this boy, Fentry pours all his love and hopes into his son, who shadows his every move. Only a few years later, events conspire to rob Fentry of the future, the child reclaimed by Sarah's kin.

The images are stark and memorable. Duvall transcends the black-and-white screen, larger than life as he paces off the land for the home he plans to build for Sarah and her child; frantically sanding the rough edges of a tiny cradle he is making as Sarah howls in the pain of childbirth; stopping along the road to his father's farm to milk a goat for the baby's bottle; and, twenty years later, barely speaking but to say he can't agree with the other jurors.

Once his dormant love is awakened by Sarah, Fentry is helpless to retrieve it, projecting the complicated emotions of such a deep and fascinating character. In an adaptation that precedes Billy Bob Thornton's monotone phrasing in Sling Blade (perhaps Thornton's inspiration?), Duvall is a master of understatement, a true match for Faulkner's powerful story of love, redemption and loss, one man's spirit on fire for too brief a time.
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reviewed by Luan Gaines
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