Rails & Ties

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This review was written for the festival screening of Rails & Ties."

TELLURIDE, Colo. -- A tell-tale first feature by actress Alison Eastwood, "Rails & Ties" is a heartfelt but dramatically flat portrait of a couple grappling with one tragedy whose lives are profoundly affected by the outcome of another.

While nicely performed by Kevin Bacon and Marcia Gay Harden, with lovely cinematography by her father's favorite lensman, Tom Stern, the wispy picture chugs along earnestly without achieving the necessary emotional momentum that would bring it to a convincingly affecting destination.

After premiering at the Telluride Film Festival, the Warner Bros. Pictures release will be making further festival stops at Toronto and New York, where it will need to generate a little buzz if it has hopes of standing out among the fall season's serious-minded fare when it opens in limited engagements Oct. 26.

Bacon's Tom Stark is a fittingly named, emotionally detached career train engineer who's having difficulties coming to terms with the bleak prognosis that has just been given to his wife, Megan (Harden).

A breast cancer survivor, Megan has been informed that the disease has metastasized to her bones, giving her mere months, weeks or even days to live.

Tom's way of coping has been to continue to immerse himself in his work, but when his train hits the car of a suicidal mother (Bonnie Root) and her young son (Miles Heizer), their remaining time together takes some unexpected turns.

Working from Micky Levy's one-dimensional script, Eastwood delicately lays down all the emotional track, as it were, but there's an overriding sameness to every scene. Even when that spark of hope comes into their lives, the film barely deviates from its hazily melancholic tone.

For their part, Harden and Bacon deliver understated if overly introspective performances. Although effectively occupying the personal spaces of their characters, when the turn of events call for deeper interaction, neither the script nor the direction gives them sufficient opportunity to do so.

On the opposite side of the camera, cinematographer Stern counterpoints the sadness with plenty of bright Southern California sunshine and quietly probing close-ups.

Unfortunately, the gentle acoustic score by Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens doesn't help much when it comes to lifting "Rails & Ties" out of that prevailing malaise.

RAILS & TIES
Warner Bros. Pictures
Credits:
Director: Alison Eastwood
Screenwriter: Micky Levy
Producers: Robert Lorenz, Peer Oppenheimer, Barrett Stuart
Director of photography: Tom Stern
Production designer: James J. Murakami
Music: Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens
Co-producer: Tim Moore
Costume designer: Deborah Hopper
Editor: Gary D. Roach
Cast:
Tom Stark: Kevin Bacon
Megan Stark: Marcia Gay Harden
Davey Danner: Miles Heizer
Renee: Marin Hinkle
Otis Higgs: Eugene Byrd
Laura Danner: Bonnie Root
Running time -- 108 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13

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