Unearned Grace in Tender Mercies and Driving Miss Daisy

English: Lesson 160

In what ways are both movies about grace: gifts unearned by the recipient?

Tender Mercies (1983) and Driving Miss Daisy (1989) are films about two people who didn’t expect grace from the world but are given it. Both films won an Oscar for best lead actor and actress; Robert Duvall in Tender Mercies for playing Mac, and Jessica Tandy in Driving Miss Daisy for playing Miss Daisy.

These films touch your heart in a certain way, and it is because these two characters who do not seek or desire the gift of grace, are given it from the most unlikely of people.

Mac is a fallen country singer, who was once young, rich, and famous. He had earned everything by making his way to the top with his good songs and singing. But he ends up losing it all, and not only his fame and wealth, but his wife, daughter, and reputation. He hits rock bottom at a small motel and gas station, where he is left drunk on the floor of his motel room with no money in his pockets to pay for it. This is where the owner of the motel, Rosa Lee, gives him grace. Mac comes to her and admits he has no money for the room but will stay and work off his debt. Rosa Lee did not have to agree to this. She could have called the police. The wiser choice would have been to send Mac away, because here she was, a young single woman, with a little boy, and now this strange man comes to her drunk and penniless asking for work. But, she does not turn him out and she finds him small jobs around the gas station and motel to do till his debt is paid. The only condition she gives him is that he is not allowed to drink when he’s working.

Miss Daisy is an older woman, who lives in a big house with a servant and lots of money, and a very nice car that she loves to drive. But one day, she accidentally backs it up into the neighbour’s flower beds and it becomes clear that she is not able to drive safely anymore. This is a hard thing to accept for any person and it is especially hard for Miss Daisy. Her son gets her a chauffeur to drive her where ever she needs whenever she wants, but she refuses to be seen as incapable of doing things herself and resorts to walking and taking the bus to where she needs instead. The chauffeur, named Hoke, kindly tries to persuade her to let him drive her, not because she can’t drive, but because he needs a job and hates getting paid to sit and do nothing. Miss Daisy does not like Hoke. But with constant persuading and threatening to start cleaning her house and weeding her garden if he can’t drive her, Hoke gets his way and Miss Daisy allows him to drive her. This may not sound like grace, but it is one of the most loving ways someone can give it. Hoke does not make Miss Daisy feel old or incapable like everyone else does. That was grace in itself, but he also gives her friendship before she deserves it. By the end of the film, Miss Daisy tells Hoke he is her best friend. It was an unlikely friendship, but such a beautiful and loving one.

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