As the days grow shorter and humanity settles in for a fall and winter amid a pandemic, good films can help the spirit grow. Here are Catholic Sentinel staff picks for this season.

‘Tender Mercies’

1983, PG, Amazon Prime


“Tender Mercies” is much like the Texas prairie where the film is set — barren, unyielding and with an emotional impact that gets under your skin.

The main characters are Baptist, but the theme of redemption through Jesus’ grace and human love make it a meditation on the transformative power of belief for all Christians.

The supremely talented Robert Duvall fully inhabits the character of Mac Sledge, a former country music star and alcoholic who passes out at a motel following a brawl over a bottle of whisky. He’s lost his career, wife and daughter to his booze-induced verbal and physical outbursts.

The motel is run by a young widow, Rosa Lee, who lives there with her young son, and Mac asks to stay on to work off his debt for the motel room he trashed. After possibly the most understated courtship depicted by Hollywood, the widow and Mac marry.

If your summer has been filled with fast-paced Netflix fare or a deluge of news, this delicate film will be a welcome, nuanced antidote. An added treat are the country tunes that range from foot-tapping to heartbreaking.

Note the realities of divorce, addiction and compounded suffering are present here; this is no tidy, sentimental story. Instead, it captures the tenderness and mercy that help us muddle through.