The Yellow Handkerchief

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The Yellow Handkerchief

Thrown together by a storm, three lonely souls tool about Louisiana in a convertible: strong-and-silent ex-con Brett (Hurt), shiftless and sullenly romantic 15-year-old Martine (Stewart), and an overcompensating adolescent oddball named Gordy (Redmayne). The younger male drools over Martine, she stares at Brett, and nobody knows what the former jailbird wants until flashbacks recall a tragic romance with a woman (Bello) down by the river. Thus begins a wispy story of revelation that’s blessed with gorgeously photographed Southern discomfort, and beset by on-the-nose dialogue and awkward time-shifting.

An aura of menace and mystery that surrounds Hurt’s character is all a prime fit for the actor, who gets to grudgingly grumble wise words and watch over his young companions from behind a mustache. The pre-Twilight-tormented Stewart, all made up with nowhere to go, unsurprisingly makes a good emotionally flailing teenager, while the British Redmayne—seemingly inspired by Wise Blood’s Hazel Motes—lends Gordy a grating weirdness. Even though the Bello-Hurt thread is unconvincingly brought up to date at the end, this inside-out movie gets good mileage out of letting us watch characters watch each other.—Nicolas Rapold

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