Freshmen Director Undercuts Hal Holbrook’s Dream Roll in That Evening Sun


First-time writer-director Scott Teems has given 84-year-old master actor Hal Holbrook a dream role in Abner Meecham, a Tennessean who walks out of a nursing home and returns to the remote farm where he spent his life. On arrival, Meecham discovers that his son (Walton Goggins) has rented the place to a local bad apple named Lonzo Choat (Ray McKinnon) and his family. Furious, Abner takes up residence in a rundown cabin near the main house, triggering a volatile feud between the two men. An old-world Southerner, Abner is unforgiving of weakness, and of Lonzo, an often despicable character for whom McKinnon, in a charged performance, generates a surprising degree of empathy. As an actor, Holbrook is as unsentimental as Abner himself, and the beauty of his work here lies in his refusal to soften the character’s hard edges. Regrettably, Teems’s editorial choices in the film’s homestretch waste that discipline: More than once, the director inserts a gooey flashback to a tender moment between the farmer and his late wife (Dixie Carter) that not only extends an already overlong movie, but also fatally undercuts the artful rigor of its leading man.