This gutsy, personal, deeply sad, but finally hopeful movie was completely overlooked in theaters and ignored or misunderstood by most critics. It was also Clint Eastwood’s finest moment as director and actor until 'Unforgiven' ten years later.Clint stars as Red Stovall, a Depression-era singer and guitarist who’s dying of tuberculosis and hopes to get onto the Grand Old Opry. Red, who can’t drive a car without crashing into something, takes his 14-year-old nephew Whit (Clint’s son Kyle) along for the ride to Nashville.
The script (by Clancy Carlile, from his novel) is straightforward and mostly unsentimental about their relationship. Red imparts no great wisdom to Whit on the road; he merely acts as an example of how not to be. He’s flawed — he’s not above stealing chickens or holding people up (with an unloaded shotgun) — but we care about him anyway, and we see that his nephew worries about him. The movie stays lean and tough even through the finale, which doesn’t jerk tears so much as earn them.This small film is one of the unnoticed treasures of the ‘80s and certainly among the best of its year.