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The Yellow Handkerchief, a Post-Katrina Road Movie

Director Udayan Prasad’s post-Katrina road movie is not a remake of Yôji Yamada’s 1977 winner of the first-ever Japanese Academy Award for Best Picture, nor is it tied as tightly to Tony Orlando’s oak tree as it is to “Going Home,” the Pete Hamill short story that inspired all of the above. (Of course, Hamill stole from folklore, so go stare at the sun—ain’t nothing new under it.) Affecting in his muted mien of regret, William Hurt plays a freshly paroled Louisiana ex-con with a history of violence—as Maria Bello can attest in parallel flashbacks—who hitches a lift and briefly becomes a father figure to a makeshift family of self-perceived misfits. Behind the wheel is a socially retarded, redneck eccentric (Savage Grace’s Eddie Redmayne) with a dire need for Ritalin and a hard-on for the other drifter, a too-trusting teen romantic (Twilight’s Kristen Stewart) with daddy issues and an awkward surge of budding sexuality. It’s the mismatched-ensemble-together-in-loneliness formula that Sundance dreams are made of, and the predictables add up: that title image signaling hope from afar; a run-in with the po-po, and, occasionally, the next line of dialogue. Still, Hurt’s revealed criminal past could’ve been cringe-worthy—and it’s not. All three leads are solidly convincing in their candor. And Oscar-winning cinematographer Chris Menges (The Mission) shoots the hell out of the swampy South to make for a nontoxic diversion.

 
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