Although working from a barebones script, Alison Eastwood navigates an agreeable path through her directorial debut Rails & Ties. While featuring some beautifully etched performances from her cast, she proves much less laconic than her father Clint.
The story concerns Tom (Kevin Bacon), a commuter train operator whose wife Megan (Marcia Gay Harden) is dying of cancer. One day, Tom’s locomotive collides with the car of a suicidal mother and her son David (Miles Heizer), who escapes. The fatal accident inadvertently brings David into the lives of the couple, which changes all their lives.
Rails & Ties operates from a pretty preposterous storyline that just about stretches credibility, but Eastwood fortunately works between the lines of the story. Tom is a man who has built a wall of armor to protect himself from the grief of his wife's impending death. He can only take refuge in his love of trains. Suffering from the sense that she’s been cheated by life and raging against the impending darkness, Megan feels emotionally abandoned by her husband. Meanwhile, David is a sane young man, who also loves trains, but he's now starving for a stable home. When he enters their lives, it both opens and heals their wounds.
Bacon gives one of his quietly intense performances that builds in heartbreaking intensity, and Harden has a particularly startling moment in front of her bathroom mirror as she confronts the disease that is taking her life. Heizer, though less skilled, portrays David as a boy with very simple needs. Like her actors, Eastwood doesn't strain for effect. Rails & Ties is definitely a heart-tugger, but it earns its tears modestly.
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Marcia Gay Harden and Miles Heizer
Director: Alison Eastwood
Screenwriter: Micky Levy
Producers: Robert Lorenz, Peer Oppenheimer and Barrett Stuart
Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic elements, an accident scene, brief nudity and momentary strong language
Running time: 96 min.
Release date: October 26, 2007 NY/LA/Tor