Robert Duvall delivers a great, oscar-winning performance in a film that is actually worthy of it (as opposed to "The Great Santini"). Hell, even the kid (Allen Hubbard) does a good job. Duvall plays an alcholic country singer who, after waking up in a desolate country farmhouse/gas station/motel, decides to stay on and help out the owner (who is a single mother) when he can't afford to pay off his bill. Obviously, the two fall in love and get married (their relationship is formed so quickly they're already married before the movie is ten minutes in), and she helps him sober up and straighten out his life. It's interesting to see how subdued or distant the wife (Tess Harper) is. One of the closing scenes, where Duvall's character has a breakdown, any other movie wife would run to him and hug and comfort him, but this woman (who appears in the corner of the screen), merely turns and walks away. For such a loving wife, it's rather strange behavior (in fact, it leads one to question whether she really loves him, or married him just because he provided a role model for her son). His ex-wife stands in stark contrast, she's driven purely by her music career and doesn't seem to care about anything else. She's a woman who seemingly has it all, but really has nothing, whereas he is someone who appears to have nothing but really has everything he could ever want. He doesn't covet his ex wife's success. Their daughter (Ellen Barkin) is kept from him until at 18, she decides to look him up for herself. It's such a slow-moving, simple tale and yet it feels realistic, like it could've been made-for-television by Robert Altman. Duvall is convincing as a country music singer, and does a good job performing the songs in the movie. Tender Mercies would make a nice contrasting companion piece for Altman's "Nashville", if someone were in the mood for country & western, slice-of-life.