The Bottom Line: "Maybe one day along the way You'll think of me, and you'll be smiling" ~Patty Griffin
Rails & Ties is an interesting story about crossroads and how each person acts during their encounters along those roads. Granted, it is a story steeped in death and all that surrounds it, but that is one factor of living we can’t ignore and how we interact with others tells our true measure.
Tom & Megan Stark have come to a place in their lives where, unfortunately, they’ve been before. After two successful bouts with cancer, even a mastectomy, Megan learns the cancer has returned and mastisized to her bones. Having suffered through the two prior treatments, their personal relationship has started to gently part ways. Not that each loves the other differently, they just don’t know how to cope with the ramifications of this disease.
Tom, a train engineer, removes himself from the surroundings by burying himself in his miniature train setup in the garage. Megan suffers in silence, dreaming of a life she has never had, a life she never lived and now never will. Tom, unable to stay at home any longer and watch his wife suffer, returns to work one bleak day in July and his life changes forever.
Literally on the other side of the tracks, Davey and his mother Laura live a meager existence in a dirty home, virtually being run by Davey who is only 9 years old. Laura, suffering from only can be severe depression, stays in bed all day while he handles the chores and maintenance of the home. He has only one passion, trains. And on this day in July Laura tells him to get his things together because they are going to go watch the trains … first she takes 3 pills, and gives him two. What these are isn’t disclosed but I assume they are sleeping pills or a related item. Davey immediately spits his out which probably was the best thing for him.
So this day in July, on the crossroads of life, Tom and Megan and Laura and Davey, all meet up. I’m not particularly giving anything away when I say that Laura did indeed to go the train tracks to watch the trains pass by but, instead of calmly sitting by the wayside, she pulls her car on the tracks and removes the keys from the ignition, promptly passing out. Davey is unable to get her out of the car, Tom is unable to stop the train - pow …
Of course this is so predictable, especially since you have already heard Megan lament the fact they never had children. On the day she decides to leave Tom forever who shows up at the door but an angry little boy named Davey, wanting answers about his mothers death.
There was a fairly good acting core for this film with Kevin Bacon playing the part of Tom Stark. This was a serious role for him, no dimples showing and no comedic acts. Many times his expressive face told of pain and sorrow while his mouth refused to say the words. One of the few roles I enjoyed watching him play.
Megan was played by Marcia Gay Harden with a calm placidity I found almost disarming. There is one scene in particular, the reason for the nudity mention in the rating, where she disrobes in the bathroom looking at her amputated breast. Even after all that, all that pain, it had made no difference because the cancer had returned. She shows both defeat and anger in a remarkable way.
Perhaps the one I found the most intriguing was little Miles Heizer who played Davey. At times he appears aged in expression, both verbally, physically, and emotionally, and then he returns to that frightened and dependent state that a small boy should have at that age in life. Full of questions and often full of wonder, not yet totally jaded by the responsibilities of the world. He did receive the only nomination for this film by the way. I thought for a while they were hinting about Tom being Davey’s natural father with the love of trains thing and no daddy in his life but they never fleshed that out.
As far as quality of the work in the film, directed in her debut by Alison Eastwood, she does rely on a lot of flashbacks in the film but also provides some very decent close-up shots done by cinematographer Tom Stern. The musical score was another nice addition, thanks to Michael Steven and, yes, Kyle Eastwood. This was written by Micky Levy, carrying a PG-13 rating for mature elements, accident scene, some strong language, and that one brief nude scene.
DVD extras include: subtitles, deleted scenes - that’s all.
This was surprisingly a decent film that I enjoyed.