Rails & Ties


No doubt about it, Alison Eastwood has picked up a thing or two from her old man. Her debut feature is slow, deliberate, assured, and shot with a graceful feel for place—none of which is enough to overcome the creaky themes that tie this hackneyed domestic drama together with fearsome symmetry. A child in need of parents, parents in need of a child—what else is necessary to complicate the passage from A to B to redemption but suicide, cancer, and a difficult marriage? The acting is great, though it may be time for Kevin Bacon—playing a train conductor faced with a difficult decision about the car parked in a fast-approaching crossing—to take a break from the man-of-few-words thing. Marcia Gay Harden is much too good for her role here as the afflicted wife who “doesn’t want to relax, I want to live.” (Clichés by Micky Levy, who cobbled them together after a train journey of her own.) Newcomer Miles Heizer is excellent as the forlorn lad, but there’s no saving this mawkish tale—whose best feature is its sense of railway life, and whose worst is its reduction of life’s common hurts and losses to puppetry.