The Tender Bar
George Clooney’s The Tender Bar starts with a quick zoom in on the back of a travelling car – a symbolic introduction that the audience will later find parallel with the finale. Like most bildungsroman stories, this one deals with experiences that can hit a little too close to home for many; the journey of small successes and heavy failures, rejection and stagnation, the search for identity and feelings of being lost, adding in a touch of imposter syndrome. Starring Tye Sheridan and Ben Affleck, this film revolves around familial relationships, focusing on the dynamics between absent father and son, and stand-in paternal figures.
Clooney exhibits the importance of these interactions through lots of symmetrical shots, mostly incorporating the separation of the bartender and the customer, and plenty of conversations taking place in the front seat of a car. Cars in general are a feature; not only do they dominate at the beginning and ending, they are incorporated into the cinematography as key props indicating the passage of time and space. It’s a simple technique that complements the quietly serene ambiance and tone.
Warm filters synergise with the score and soundtrack to create the atmosphere each scene demands, from the glowing bustle of family life to tense confrontations among characters. The narration also remains perfectly in-sync with the flow of the camera and editing, further adding to the effect. However, there are some odd choices here and there in terms of production. For example, the sudden zoom-ins in the midst of crowded conversations or specific scenes, to indicate significance in the speaker or other aspects, sometimes feel out-of-place, as does the choice to cut between past and present in the earlier sections, before completely abandoning the concept not even halfway through.
Sheridan is a likeable protagonist. There’s a little stiffness in his performance, especially when compared with the other big-name stars in the film. Still, he manages to capture his character’s essence and endear him to the audience in the most stripped-back and simplest of ways, which further enhances the emotional sequences. However, it’s Affleck who truly brings the production to life. The intricacies of his delivery are what create impact in the choices made by Sheridan’s character.
The Tender Bar is released in select cinemas on 17th December 2021.
Watch the trailer for The Tender Bar here: