So this is weird. I didn't plan it this way, but it just worked out. After seeing Gran Torino I happened to catch Rails and Ties directed by Alison Eastwood on HBO. Since I did think it merited mentioning here I figured I review it. To say the apple doesn't fall to far from the tree would be an interesting comparison between Eastwood and her father. Rails & Ties is Alison Eastwood's only directing credit so far, and she shows a lot of skill here. Though some would say that this type of film is more situated on the Lifetime network then theatrical release I beg to differ. Eastwood does a very competent job at directing the actors and getting good performances out of them. It is these performances that make the film worth seeing.
Tom Stark (Kevin Bacon) and his wife (Marcia Gay Harden) are dealing with his wife's illness. Marcia Gay Harden's character isn't dealing with the illness that is eventually killing her to well. Both Bacon & Harden's characters are having a difficult time dealing with how their lives have turned out It isn't until , Laura Danner (Bonnie Root), who is suffering from addiction and depression, that she drives her car--with her son, Davey (Miles Heizer), inside--onto the railroad tracks where they wait for the train to come and kill them. Davey is able to get out but not save his mother as the train, driven by engineer Tom Stark (Kevin Bacon), crashes into the car. It is only till then that the drama of the movie takes off.
Now having just said all this it does sound like melodrama hell, but Eastwood's direction does the picture some justice. The performances by Bacon & Harden are well done, and very believable. I felt empathy for the characters and some how got rapped up in their plight.
You can see Eastwood's direction working in the film, and she gives the actors room to inhabit their characters making them more believable. I have to say that it is a sort of a tear jerker too, but one that feels a bit real. I don't think I whole hearted believe that the social worker wouldn't have turned in the boy after seeing him with the Stark's, but that a dramatic contention that can be overlooked. Though Marin Hinkle portrays the social worker with a heart very well, and it is due to this that I buy her heartfelt love for the boy played by Miles Heizer.
The movie is slowly paced, but it works for the movie, and I would be remiss if I didn't say something about Marcia Gay Harden's performance here. I have always liked her as an actress. She seems to be the hardest working actress of today, and I always look forward to her performances, but here she shines. Bacon's performance is also one to be noted and the two complement each other. Harden's performance as a dying women could have been so easily phoned in, but here she does anything but. She made me feel her hurt, and her despair and that's not easy to do.
In the end I would be remiss to tell you that I didn't have some tears, and that's due to the performances in this picture. Eastwood should be very proud of her first film, and you can see she did learn from both her father and her performances as an actress on how to draw actors into the part. If you get a chance and you want a good cry I recommend Rails & Ties.