Parents' Guide to

The Railway Man

By S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Former POW can't shake wartime cruelty in sluggish drama.

Movie R 2014 116 minutes
The Railway Man Poster Image

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THE RAILWAY MAN is a lesser movie than it should be, packaged as it is with gorgeous cinematography, atmospheric music, and a star-studded cast. In another time and place, it could have been Oscar bait. But this version is pulled in two different directions. It starts as what appears to be a romance, an exploration of the relationship between two equals, one more self-actualized than the other. But then it quickly becomes apparent that it's also a war movie. And in many ways, as the latter, it's sensitive, empathetic, and moving. If only it had just made up its mind.

You get the feeling that Kidman being cast as Eric's wife demanded a beefing up of their relationship storyline. Which would be fine, if the movie had actually given her more to do than just appear concerned and ready to come to the rescue of a damaged man. But that's not the case. And in its war movie incarnation, the film also falls short, pushing the audience to feel deeply when it doesn't deserve the commitment. It relies too heavily on music, pseudo-mysterious close-ups, and oblique references to secrets untold. Perhaps if the filmmakers had made a firm decision either way, the movie would have been better. But they didn't.

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