In That Evening Sun, Hal Halbrook stars as Abner Meecham, a curmudgeonly elder man from Tenessee. Having been unwillingly placed in a retirement home, Meecham decides to make the long balmy journey to his former place of residence, only to find that his son has rented it to a family of ne’er-do-wells. In protest, he shacks up in the outhouse with the intention to rid his home of the white trash Choat family for good.
By moving into the house on a 3-month lease with the intention to buy, the Choats have been granted a new start. As such, Lonzo Choat (Ray McKinnon, O Brother Where Art Thou) – an alcoholic living on disability – is less than thrilled about the new arrangement. Meecham’s sudden attempt at repossession creates a sharp tension between the two men, which soon develops into a series of confrontations and increasingly violent counter-attacks. Meanwhile Lonzo’s wife, Ludie, and daughter, Pamela, are powerless in the struggle and live in fear of what might happen next.
The script is tight and well-structured, with a steady stream of hilarious remarks and a great sense of timing. The story does not carry enough weight, though, so it does feel long. My main qualm is with the characters, who were a cynical bunch of crude and unlikable bastards. From the revenge-seeking Hal to naive and antagonistic little Pamela. My favourite character in the whole film was Meecham’s friend Thurl Chessor, played by Barry Corbin, who did not earn nearly enough screen time.
Set in Tennessee with its plush green surroundings, the cinematography is beautiful from the outset. At some points, however, it became a little too experimental. During one scene between Hal and his son, for example, the close-ups are shot with the faces on the inner edge of the screen, leaving the empty space on the outsides of the frame. An odd concept, since the reason for the actor’s face to be on the outside of the frame allows “talking space”. As one might expect, using this unconventional technique the scene seemed unintentionally clunky and unevenly weighted. The intended effect was lost, and the odd set-up was most distracting. There are, however, some beautiful camera movements and dream-like sequences that are wonderful to watch.
Overall, a lot of great concepts that are poorer in execution. It’s good, but it’s not great.