Some films use talent and eloquence to grab an audience. Others, however, rely simply on brute force; if nothing else, this megaweepie isn’t afraid to throw elbows at any unlucky sod with $11 and a masochistic streak. The way this graduate of the Tuesdays with Morrie School of Drama is determined to wring every last sob out of multiplex patrons is frightening. If Alison “Daughter of Clint” Eastwood’s directorial debut can’t move you, it’s content to at least steamroller over you.
A railroad engineer (Bacon), suffering from Level 4 stoic masculinity, can’t cope with the imminent passing of his cancer-ridden wife (Harden). Fate deals him another blow when a suicidal mother literally crosses his path; the woman’s son (Heizer) takes refuge at the closed-off conductor’s house, where his sick spouse gets to become the mom she always wanted to be. Shameless doesn’t begin to describe how this sodden melodrama manhandles viewers into emotional reactions with an arsenal of cheap shots. (Terminal illness! Needy kids flying kites! Van Morrison tunes!) If Rails & Ties could somehow have gotten its cast to burrow into your tear ducts like determined ticks and physically push the water out of your eyes, it wouldn’t have hesitated for a nanosecond.