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Rails & Ties [Import]
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Kevin Bacon and Marcia Gay Harden give soaring performances in Rails & Ties, director Alison Eastwood’s moving tale of people in crisis and emotions at the brink. Bacon plays Tom Stark, a train engineer unable to face his wife’s (Harden) illness. Then a terrifying railway collision leaves a little boy orphaned. Tom takes the boy into his home and – step by step, strength by strength – learns how to bond with the wife he adores by opening his heart to a boy who needs the security of a devoted family.
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The main thrust of the story concerns the couple's encounter with the suicide victim's preteen son (Miles Heizer) with whom they develop a parental bond. Although this twist creates new conflicts for the couple, it rekindles their lost relationship--as well as drives the film forward towards its life-affirming conclusion.
The film's performances are superb, and Alison Eastwood's direction is graceful and sublime. Micky Levy's screenplay creates characters that are truly believable and 3-dimensional, and brings us into their world so deeply that we don't want to leave.
Tom Stark (Kevin Bacon) is a train engineer, married to his job as well as being married to his nurse wife Megan (Marcia Gay Harden) who is facing the ugly fact that her breast cancer is terminal. The cancer has spread beyond Megan's body into the tenuous space that keeps a marriage glued: Megan attempts to hide her desperate need for emotional support by continuing to work as a nurse and Tom takes on extra train runs to avoid the reality that face him at home. The other side of the story is equally sad: young Davey Danner (Miles Heizer) cares of his psychologically shattered mother (Bonnie Root) and unknowingly accompanies her on a jaunt to 'see the train' - a ploy well planned by the suicidal mother to drive in front of an oncoming train to end her life along with Davey's. The conductor of the train is of course Tom Stark, and when Tom first sees the car on the tracks, he keeps to company policy that recommends gradual slowing rather than the danger of an abrupt stop: the result is the death of Davey's mother but Davey escapes the crash while trying to pull his mother from the car. The tragedies mount: Davey is left homeless, being placed in a foster home run by the cruel 'mom' (Margo Martindale) only to escape to find the 'killer' of his mother; Tom is put on leave for the incident; Megan gets the final word that she has very little time left and is ready to leave the distant Tom. It is this inadvertent entrance of Davey into the lives of Tom and Megan that results in a healing of three souls who are desperate for the connection of love.
While some my find the story implausible and saccharine, others will appreciate the manner in which Eastwood holds rein on the story, playing it for quiet honesty instead of explosive situations. Both Bacon and Harden deliver the quality of sophisticated performances that have marked their careers, and the remainder of the cast gives strong support - especially Eugene Byrd, Marin Hinkle, Bonnie Root, Margo Martindale, and of course Miles Heizer. This is a tough story to tell but the film holds an indelible mark on the viewer. Grady Harp, June 08
Kevin Bacon portrays hidden emotional tangents as well as always, he looked similar to his character from Woodsman (an often skipped but worthy film). His trademark walk/swagger shows through a couple of times but his performance was believable and in the end, convincing since he had to go from being emotionally stunted to a single parent in one week. Marcia Gay Harden was outstanding and gave her best performance to date as a dying, childless woman in a defunct marriage who had always yearned for a child. The child actor (Heizer) gave his first big performance in film here, and he does not disappoint. The roles of being caregiver to his suicidal mom, to a grieving homeless kid, to the acceptance of the man who drove the train that killed her, could not have been easy. He stumbles a few times but has the early workings and innocent face of a young River Phoenix.
The deleted scenes were so relevant to back story and the kid's time being homeless, they should have been left in just to give something to the lead characters past and present dilemmas. The two actors (in these deleted parts) gave wonderful performances but appeared nowhere else in the film; I cannot even find their credits listed.
At times, customers ask for a film that will uplift them and not make them cry, this film will not be the one I hand them. If they ask for that prolific "good" film with a solid story and believable characters, Rails and Ties will be on the list. The ending has been seen as a happy one, but I disagree. Spoilers following - their ambiguous stroll into that agency could only lead to misery, legal entanglements, people being fired, and probable separation - but I suppose it was the only way it could end realistically. The Eastwoods are known for their unhappy endings though, and I hope this DVD does not get overlooked.
The plot moves around a bit, with scenes that are predictable, and some of the story a bit unbelievable, especially in todays society. Set back 20 years, you might see something like this happen, but not today.
All in all, I enjoyed the story, but you have to be a person who doesn't mind a sad story, that has a spurts of happiness intertwines throughout the movie, and a somewhat happy ending.