Clint Eastwoods daughter Alison makes an auspicious directing debut with this compelling family drama.
As the story begins, Megan Stark (Marcia Gay Harden), a nurse, is told that her long battle with breast cancer is ending. After surgery and chemotherapy, shes determined to live her final weeks as fully as possible. But her taciturn husband, Tom (Kevin Bacon), is in total denial, channeling his emotions into the job he loves. Hes a railroad engineer, running the Stargazer Express between Los Angeles and Seattle.
Then a suicidal woman deliberately pulls her car on the tracks right in front of Toms on-rushing train, leaving her precocious, locomotive-loving 11 year-old son, Davey, an orphan. Fleeing from the foster home in which hes placed, Davey tracks down Tom Stark and demands to know why he didnt stop the train and save his mother.
Seizing the emotional opportunity, Megan reaches out to Davey leaving Tom not only to confront the pending investigational hearing as a result of the accident but also to cope with the consequences of taking this missing child into their home.
Utilizing contrivances and coincidences more suited for a movie-of-the-week on Lifetime TV, screenwriter Micky Levy delineates several lives on a bleak collision course. But actress-turned-director Alison Eastwood brings admirable spontaneity, understated intimacy and deft dexterity to her vision, astutely seeking collaboration with her fathers longtime cinematographer Tom Stern, production designer James Murakami and editor Gary Roach adding her brother Kyle Eastwoods evocative music.
Whats striking is the uncanny resemblance between Kevin Bacons reserved demeanor and verbal cadence and early Clint Eastwood performances. Was that the actors choice or the directors? On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Rails & Ties is a heartfelt 7, particularly for an adult, female audience.