Tie Yellow Ribbon round Ole Oak Tree

In many ways based on the traditional folklore of the ex-convict hopeful to see a yellow ribbon tied round the ole' oak tree meaning that he's welcome home, The Yellow Handkerchief tells the story of Brett (William Hurt), a recently released convict who is uncertain if he can return to his lover May (Maria Bello), who is a complicated mix of tough-as-nails and incredibly fragile all rolled up into one. An odd series of circumstances leaves Brett traveling through Louisiana with a teenaged girl named Martine (Kristen Stewart) who oddly enough seems to look up to him as a father figure, and a young man named Gordy (Eddie Redmayne), a wanderer who takes a liking to Martine.

The movie's ending is fairly predictable, but it takes a meandering course to get there. Nearly all of Brett's story is told through a series of flashbacks interspersed with the current action. (And when I say "action, " I mean evenly paced events. This is not an action flick. If you want that, go see the latest Die Hard film or whatever else Hollywood is churning out this month.) This is instead a rather quiet movie focused on just these four characters and not necessarily anything outside of them. That being said, the movie does provide for musings on larger themes like the nature of love and desire, loneliness, communication breakdowns, and so forth.

Because of the character-driven nature of this movie, the acting plays a huge role. Unimpressed by her dull and inspired acting in the Twilight saga and Speak, I was pleasantly surprised to find Kirsten Stewart palatable here. Her acting was not superb, but it was sufficient to do the Martine character justice. Maria Bello is fabulous as May, especially given that her character - while a driving motivation behind nearly all of Brett's actions - is not seen much in the movie except in the occasional flashbacks. Eddie Redmayne perfectly embodies the outcast "weirdo" Gordy, down to every last twitchy movement. And William Hurt carries the movie, conveying pathos in every scene despite his character's terseness. That's certainly not an easy feat. Apparently, Hurt actually spent time in a maximum-security prison to prepare himself for the role.

With little action and fairly limited dialogue from the main lead, the film trades in its best stock - cinematography. There's some great visuals throughout the movie as the trio traverse through the state on their road trip. As the movie is set in Louisiana in 2007, the visuals include many scenes of the storm-damaged state, which help provide some historic context even if Hurricane Katrina and its effects are not really something the movie overtly discusses much.

This next paragraph is going to contain some spoilers so skip ahead if you like to go into your movies without having the ending revealed to you in advance.


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