Robert Duvall, left, and Lucas Black in “Get Low” 2009. IMDb photo

“In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines, and I shivered to death of the cold.” Ballad by Laura Hunt.

“Get Low” begins with screams in the darkness penetrated by the sight of a burning cabin in the pines. Is that a set up opener or what?

Then we’re stunned by the sight of Robert Duvall, Don Vito’s clean shaven consigliere in “The Godfather,” now bearded and dirty, rifle by his bed, having a nightmare of a nightmare about that night long ago, What’s up? Where did this dream come from, and while we’re at it, what is Duvall doing in it?

Duvall, “The Godfather,” and dozens of great westerns across our screens, in rumpled, dirty clothing and matted tick-infested beard?

But here he is as Felix Bush, a forgotten hermit, bedded down on a stormy night in a gas-lit cabin deep in the Tennessee woods, with a small, colored photo of a lovely girl embedded above his head. I paused. Is that a story being born or what?

Felix’s donkey, his only friend, one who pulls his old wagon, is disturbed by the fury of the storm, so Felix plods out and beds down with her. Who else?


And so, slow and softly, we begin a mystery of two lovers forgotten by time — directed by Aaron Schneider (“Two Soldiers”) and released quietly in 2010 — that seems to have flashed up and faded away while Duvall, who won the Hollywood Film Festival Best Actor that year, went back to his horse farm in Virginia.

But here it is, a magical period piece about an aging hermit with a horrible, deeply buried secret, who rides into down, viewed like a ghost out of a Flannery O’Conner story, clutching a huge wet roll of cash, to confront the local pastor, the Rev. Gus Horton (Gerald McRaney) with a plea.

He would like to have his funeral performed at the local church, one that he would view, but with an attendant “Party” of townsfolk (most of whom would rather he die away) who tell their own stories about this man who has been hiding in the woods for 40 years.

Refused by the pastor, Felix connects with the local funeral parlor owner, a wandering huckster from Chicago, Frank Quinn (the great Bill Murray in a toned down but comic-edged delivery) who senses a money-making deal here, and takes him on.

Together with his young partner Buddy (Lucas Black), Quinn takes Felix under his wing. But Felix is no pushover, he has his own idea for the event. He wants it to include a raffle, five bucks a ticket, where the lucky winner would own hundreds of acres of Felix’s untapped prime forestland.

The plan is put into motion and hundreds of dollars flow into Quinn’s funeral parlor, where he and Buddy lock it up in a back-room casket.


Quinn and Buddy proceed to pull Felix back into the 20th century, with a visit to the barber shop and men’s haberdasher.

But the mystery of that long-ago night, when a cabin lit up the night with flames and buried the secret of who died inside, still hangs in the air. And there is one man, the Rev. Charlie Jackson (Bill Cobbs), a Black backwoods preacher, who knows the truth.

Back from the past comes Mattie Darrow (a much-missed Sissy Spacek), the sister of the woman whose spirit and picture hang in Felix’s heart.

“Get Low” is not a box-office classic, but a tender-hearted, ancient ghostly love story that should not be brushed away. Give it a look. You’ll love it.

J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.

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