Here is a road movie set in post-Katrina-Louisiana where three characters in a car and one in a run-down shack try desperately to find a way to avoid the bleak and dark future that lies ahead of each of them. Choices must be made, old self-destructive habits left behind, and stories shared for mutual edification.
British director Udayan Prasad is at the helm of this intimate drama which is in no hurry to reach its destination. And that is a good thing. Changing directions and set behaviors cannot be rushed and the screenplay by Erin Dignam, based on a 1971 short story by Pete Hamill, inches its way into our hearts as we root for these three misfits and the mysterious woman who is holding out for love in New Orleans, despite the destruction around her. She believes in second chances and wants us to do the same.
Brett (William Hurt) has just been released from serving a six-year sentence for manslaughter. He has been in trouble all his life and in the past worked on an oil rig out at sea. Arriving in a small town to catch a bus south, he watches two teenagers, who in very different ways, are also outsiders. Martine (Kristin Stewart) is a pretty young girl who has just been dumped by her boyfriend. Gordy (Eddie Redmayne) is a Native American drifter whose odd behavior makes those around him ill-at-ease. She gets a ride to the ferry with this unruly boy and asks Brett if he wants a lift. He joins them in the car but soon gets claustrophobic and stands out in the pouring rain shielded by Gordy's tent. Disappointed by a phone call with her father, Martine agrees to spend a night in a motel with these two strangers. She is turned off by Gordy's infatuation with her and intrigued by Brett's mysteriousness.
In a run-in with a tough guy who gets upset when Gordy scrapes his car door, Brett comes to the Native American's rescue but is later picked up by the police and put in jail for driving Gordy's car without a license. A friend in law enforcement arranges for his release but now his two teenage companions know that he is an ex-con. Brett decides to tell them the story of his past and especially his romantic relationship with May (Maria Bello), a boat seller who has been unlucky in love. Brett doesn't know how to deal with the troubles which overtake them and put their future together in jeopardy.
It is easy to root for these misfits as they each struggle to move beyond self-destructiveness and seeing themselves as victims. At one point Gordy notes: "I've never felt part of anything." The two lonely teenagers manage to draw a little bit closer on the trip to New Orleans where Brett hopes to reconnect with May. He is surprised by the moral support and encouragement they give him. Such cross-generational caring is something very rare in contemporary movies, and it's good to see. The top-drawer performances by William Hurt, Maria Bello, Kristen Stewart, and Eddie Redmayne are what make this small film stand out from other recent road movies.