Joseph Anthony's compelling Tomorrow (1972) is by no means a comfortable film, or at least it's not supposed to be. Long stretches of silence are occasionally broken by awkward, thickly-accented dialogue. Shooting locations are rustic, run-down and lonely. Only two main characters are present during the bulk of its 103-minute running time. It was filmed and takes place during a long Southern winter in which Jackson Fentry (Robert Duvall) and Sarah Eubanks (Olga Bellin, in her first and only film role) battle the elements. She's sick and fearful about the baby she'll deliver in a few months, especially since her husband left and she ran away from her family. Jackson simply saw an abandoned woman in need of help and took her inside for the winter. Empathy sets the tone for Tomorrow and makes us care about both of them.
Jackson Fentry is a quiet man, either uncomfortable with (or not used to) anything more than quick, polite exchanges. He's been living in the boiler room at a sawmill during these winter months, serving as caretaker while the facilities are closed. Jackson doesn't appear to enjoy his surroundings so much as tolerate them, but it's clear that there's a real person lurking under his quiet, stilted exterior. Naturally, the sudden Christmas Eve appearance of Sarah changes his world: Jackson immediately puts aside family plans to care for her and asks for nothing in return. It's unclear whether he's genuinely attracted or just happy to have some company. Before long, it's obvious that attraction does play a role in their relationship; taking her husband's absence into account, Jackson proposes what some might call "a marriage of convenience". Nonetheless, Sarah will eventually give birth to another's baby...and though Jackson promises to raise it as his own, it's clear that trouble lies ahead. While it lasts, Tomorrow casts a spell that makes us hang on just about every word. And even if you've been lucky enough to see it before, it's hard not to fall under this spell every time.
I'm only saying this because, well, Tomorrow has consistently flown under the radar during the last four decades. It received a limited theatrical release in 1972 and a second, slightly more successful re-release a decade later. It was released on DVD once by Criterion's sister company, Home Vision Entertainment (more details below), but has since become tough to find on the secondary market for less than the price of your average boxed set. It's by no means a perfect film, despite being awarded a perfect rating: the bookend "trial" sequences are a bit confusing at first, some of the camerawork and editing is a little sloppy and, if you're actually from Mississippi, Duvall's accent might not sound entirely accurate. But the film's powerful core story is what gives it such initial impact and continued staying power, not to mention an intentionally aged appearance meant to evoke what appears to be a Depression-ravaged landscape.
I reviewed the Home Vision Entertainment DVD release of Tomorrow more than ten years ago; since then, the low-profile disc has gone long out-of print. Having loaned it out never to be returned, I hadn't seen Tomorrow in years and was reluctant to shell out more than $60 for a used copy. Luckily, I no longer have to do that, and neither do you: B2MP has released this buried treasure as a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack for less than half that much...and I'd imagine that this smaller studio won't exactly be flooding the market with copies, so make sure to get it while you can. Though I have a few mild reservations about this release, it's still a long-overdue effort that fans will certainly appreciate.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
B2MP's new high definition transfer from 35mm elements looks quite pleasing for the most part, though the Home Vision Entertainment DVD was also good for its time. There's one drawback to this new release, however: Tomorrow has been slightly cropped from the previous 1.33:1 aspect ratio and is now framed at 1.78:1. Although I professed in my 2004 review of the DVD that the "full frame" presentation was correct...well, now I'm not so sure: Tomorrow was barely shown theatrically so the exact "true" framing is unknown. Though the widescreen framing doesn't appear to trim off anything important, I'll admit that I didn't mind the extra headroom that the open matte presentation provided...not to mention that Tomorrow just feels like a lost relic from the early 19th century. But hey, I'll take what I can get.
And what we do get is a largely excellent presentation that stays true to Tomorrow's source elements: some scenes are soft or a little dark---either by design or due to age/film stock---while others are as clean as a whistle and boast excellent shadow detail and texture. No excessive digital manipulation appears to be on display here, letting us enjoy plenty of little background details and the film's natural atmosphere. Aspect ratio issues aside, this is a terrific 1080p transfer that easily outpaces the already-great DVD...but die-hard fans might want to hold onto that one, too.
DISCLAIMER: The screen captures featured in this review are strictly decorative and do not represent Blu-ray's native 1080p resolution.
Not surprisingly, there's little to say about this DTS-HD 1.0 Master Audio track aside from that it's as good the source material allows. Tomorrow is a dialogue-driven film---easy on the dialogue---but what's here sounds clean and the music cues don't fight for attention. Unlike the DVD release, B2MP has seen fit to include optional (yellow) English subtitles, though I can't say I liked seeing a little music note in the upper right corner whenever the score kicked in. But it's nice to have the option, especially since Robert Duvall's infamous accent can be a bit tough to decipher at times.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the plain-wrap but functional interface includes options for chapter selection, optional English subtitles, and one lonely supplement. This two-disc package (one Blu-ray, one DVD) is housed in a dual-hubbed keepcase. Cover artwork is similar to the original Home Vision Entertainment DVD
, although now it's (appropriately) black and white.
Sadly, just the worn-out Theatrical Trailer
. Owners of the long out-of-print Home Vision Entertainment DVD
should note that the interview with Robert Duvall and screenwriter Horton Foote, as well as the reprinted original short story, have not been carried over. In any case, those who haven't jumped to Blu-ray yet will appreciate the included DVD Copy
Tomorrow is a buried treasure that's unquestionably more compelling than any simple write-up can make it sound. Robert Duvall carries the production easily with support from Olga Bellin (in her first and only film role), while the film's rustic setting and black-and-white photography give it a truly timeless atmosphere. I'm thrilled to finally have Tomorrow on Blu-ray; not just for myself, but also that it's easier for new fans to purchase than the out-of-print Home Vision Entertainment DVD. I do have reservations about this release, however, including the cropped (but certainly watchable) 16x9 aspect ratio and lack of substantial bonus features. But regardless of any shortcomings, the strength of Tomorrow and the appeal of its high-definition presentation easily make this one worth picking up. Highly Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.