This movie didn’t look promising. Against it stand: Katherine Heigl (needs no explanation), Ben Barnes with stubble (why hire that face to cover it up, and also he might be a terrible actor), blue filter, grit, guitars.

But it was pretty good, I honestly think. It’s a lot like other musical ships-passing movies, and there are a couple of glaring issues, but it managed to keep the stakes focussed enough that you just care about the people involved. Ryan (Barnes) is a train-hopping street musician with a seventh-grade education, seventeen possessions, and a dodgy almost-beard. He arrives in Ogden, Utah, where he meets some music friends and then patches up Jackie (Katherine Heigl) when she gets hit by a car. Jackie is our problem: Heigl’s unusually likable, and the custody battle over her daughter is actually quite well-drawn, but her past as a pop star is…what’s the word I’m looking for? Laughable? Deranged? Unnecessary? Plenty of people play the guitar and made it big in NY before getting divorced and moving home; the guitar and the making it big need not be connected.

But if you forget that, you have a film in which two people are slightly lost, have a few extremely mundane but important things to offer each other, and make out when appropriate. Their friends and family are entirely reasonable: Jackie’s mother think that maybe it’s not great that her divorced daughter is sleeping with a guy who is literally homeless; Ryan’s musician friends are impatient with his intentions to stick around in nowhereville to fix roofs. It has only about 20 seconds of heavy-handedness, and absolutely no ambitions towards a wider message. The camera work is small but not pretentious, and the music is surprisingly good (and apparently real).

Also, anybody who saw Prince Caspian is going to be shocked by Ben Barnes’s newfound ability to do accents. I’m not sure where he’s supposed to be from, but I think it’s the same place the whole time, and probably a real place.

Director: Ami Canaan Mann
Rating: PG-13
Length: 90 minutes
Score: 4/5

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