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That Evening Sun - A Detailed Review of a Magnificent Movie
That Evening Sun
Although it seems a little trite in the beginning, and remains that way throughout the length of the movie, "That Evening Sun," is able to rise above the almost routine plot to deliver a story of reflection whose characters all prove to be important and more complex than they appear.
"That Evening Sun," follows an old man who escapes a retirement community to return to his farm. Unfortunately, his son has legal guardianship of Abner and has rented out his farm to a local redneck underachiever, Lonzo Choat, played by Ray McKinnon, who beats his family, gets drunk and lives off disability even though it is apparent he no longer needs to. Abner not only faces off with the younger and stronger Lonzo, but also must contend with his own son who insists that Abner must return to the retirement community.
Standing Your Ground
Hal Holbrook as Abner Meecham turns in a solid performance that teeters perilously close to being cliché but constantly rises above the expected with heartfelt statements that convince you completely that Abner is the definition of a real man with solid values who has earned everything he owns.
Walton Goggins plays Abner's son, Paul, who through unseen actions has proven himself to be a liar and manipulator. In the scenes we do see Paul in, it is a different story. Walton's performance is just as heartfelt as Hal's, if not more so. It is too bad that, "Evening Sun," couldn't have broken away from the overused plot line and focused on the tug-and-pull relationship between Abner and Paul.
Paul comes across as a sincere, concerned and loving son who only wants what's best for his father who is aging and more often than not finds himself in life threatening situations beyond his control. The dialogue between father and son hints that Abner is a stubborn fool clinging to what he knows beyond common sense. But the movie intends to dispel that assumption as almost every action Abner takes is logical and makes sense according to how he sees the world.
The Dog is Important
Unfortunately, the clichés present in every man-against-the-world movie ever made, cannot be avoided completely and from the moment Abner gets a dog you can predict what's going to happen with that dog. But what Abner does after that happens will make you laugh and cause you to root even harder for the old man.
Although Abner's greatest nemesis is his son, the one he perceives as being the real threat is Lonzo, the father of the family that has taken up residence in Abner's old house. "That Evening Sun," really is about Abner's internal fight against the world, because he is nearly alone in his convictions. Even his simple minded neighbor, Thurl, played by Barry Corbin, who also wants to maintain his own independence, tries to discourage Abner every chance he gets.
The real magic of, "That Evening Sun," is in the characters themselves. It doesn't take long for you to relate to Abner and his struggle against crumbling values and people who want to control him and dictate how his worldly possessions are managed. We understand his actions are not those of a senile geriatric, but of someone who refuses to back down from challenges and troubles. Yet we also see a man who is elderly and unable to accept his limits. His son is a greedy capitalist who can't wait for his father's body to turn cold before he starts profiting from his future inheritance. At the same time, Paul is also a loving son who really does care about his father's welfare, even if he doesn't want to be bothered by the chore of taking care of Abner. In a defining moment, Paul tells Abner something he has obviously carried around his entire life, and it completely explains the distance between Paul and Abner, and the reason Paul is so callous.
Abner's enemy, Lonzo, is someone who is permanently doomed to repeat his mistakes even as he tries to be a man through immature displays of bravado to scare Abner off. Abner, being totally committed to his course and completely set in his opinions about people, is unable to see the minor positive changes and life struggles of Lonzo's family. Abner cannot see that he is having a positive impact on the Choat family but resolutely stays the course to get them out of his house.
The ending is not quite what you expect. Abner wins and loses his battle. "That Evening Sun, " is an involving and moving film worth seeing for the simple actions of its characters that reveal deeper motivations and will make you want to question who, in the end, is really right.