Local opening date: April 2, 2010
Reviewed by Diane Carson
As the story begins, Brett Hanson
walks slowly but purposely out of prison, having served his six years. In short
order, he ends up with two equally emotionally damaged teenagers, Martine and
Gordy. On the road, Hanson reveals in sporadic, economical flashbacks his
travails. Martine wants someone to care for her; enamored of Martine, Gordy
knows he makes people uncomfortable but can't help himself. Director Udayan Prasad, known here
primarily for his 1997 film My Son the
Fanatic, relies on faces and body language to reveal character. William
Hurt as Hanson more than meets the challenge in a breathtaking
Having shot this film before Twilight, Kristen Stewart as Martine
shows the promise she fulfills in her later Twilight series. Eddie Redmayne as Gordy so convincingly plays a southern teenager
he completely covers his British Shakespearean roots. And Maria Bello shines as
Hanson's past love with issues of her own. Pete Hamill's 1971 short story has
been updated to post-Katrina Louisiana, so strong a presence that the landscape
contributes as an evocative fifth character.
Metaphors communicate ideas in many
ways. Animals are integrated into the episodes-an alligator, a runaway horse, a
snake, and a buck on the road. Bridges figure several times, symbolizing
hopeful movement from past tragedy to a brighter future. Red is worn only by
the two women, Martine and May. And at the river, waiting for the ferry early
in the film, Martine says to Brett, "Hold me 'til I get my balance and then
step out of the picture." And indeed he does, having benefited in the last
scenes of the film from the younger travelers' confidence just as they've
become stronger and wiser from his earlier. It's a satisfying, earned reversal.
The tradition of the yellow ribbon
stretches back to the Puritans in the English Civil War when they wore yellow
sashes and ribbons. This changed to yellow bandanas for the U.S. cavalry in the
19th century. Yellow ribbons were popularized in the 1970s, of
course, and the symbol works well throughout The Yellow Handkerchief.
Restrained, suggestive instead of
histrionic, The Yellow Handkerchief is
an intelligent, intense character study. Prasad puts the viewer in the car
with, immersed in the thoughts and emotions of, Hanson, Gordy and Martine. The
ride is illuminating and engrossing. At Landmark's Plaza Frontenac Theatre.
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