Sundance Review: The Yellow Handkerchief is Quietly Solid

The Yellow Handkerchief is a good example of patient filmmaking. Moments of it stick out with tired indie techniques of yore; longish and indulgent opening credits, the focus on a gal's polished toenails for a beat too long - but it's hard to hold it against the film. A true lover of cinema will find much to appreciate here as the acting is stellar times four. One example would be William Hurt, who single-handedly makes you want to become a quiet and troubled man.

The story bounces back and forth between modern day William Hurt (just released from prison) and a past relationship between Maria Bello and Hurt. The mood is definitely a somber one. Hurt takes to the road with a couple of kids (Kristen Stewart and Eddie Redmayne) as the tale unfolds and we learned what happened to derail his life so hardily. He's a man of few words, but an interesting fellow, tinged with that sadness that you can only see in the eyes. The reason the gang meets up isn't central to the story, just think of them as a traveling Breakfast Club if you toned that 80's classic down a few decibels. The film is all about introspection, doling out sliver after sliver of information in a method that is almost fatiguing - if not for the aforementioned actors.

It would be fair to say this isn't a popcorn flick. The relationships require consideration and I could see an audience becoming antsy for something to happen. This would be fair but it's not something that bothered me much as I could see what director Udayan Prasad was shooting for. To steal from a sentiment I read lately from The Wire creator David Simon you shouldn't penalize an effort for trying to appeal to smart viewers. Sure, he said it in way more colorful language but I think the analysis is apt here.

What Yellow Handkerchief has in oodles is depth. No character is easy to figure and there are nice story arcs for each. The relationships are handled in a realistic manner. Closer is a fairly good comparison of how this film feels, only not nearly as polished or pretty. I don't offer that as a criticism however; The Yellow Handkerchief does well with its messy feel.

Grade: B