The Yellow Handkerchief

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
The Yellow Handkerchief Movie Poster Image
Subtly powerful road trip film OK for most teens.
  • PG-13
  • 2010
  • 96 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Even the most disparate characters can find common ground, and, clichéd but true: love heals. Also: forgiveness can redeem even the most hardened, or defeated, souls.

Positive Role Models & Representations

An ex-con, a sexually assertive 15-year-old, and a strange young grifter don’t sound like the best role models on paper, but they all use their hardened facades to mask depths of pain and a longing for love. Nobody is what he or she first seems in this film, and that’s a good thing.


A man accidentally kills another in a brawl. (The scene is brief and not at all gory.) Some yelling at tense moments, and a fight breaks out among strangers. Awkward romantic moment turns briefly threatening. One character talks briefly about suicide.


Teens kiss and the encounter gets tense when the boy pushes things a bit too far. A girl propositions a much older man. Some passionate embracing and lengthy discussions about relationships. No nudity.


A smattering of “s--t” and “bitch.”

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some social drinking; a woman enters a bar, takes a shot and yells at another man who’s also drinking. A character gives another a pack of cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this road-trip drama might appeal to more teens than expected because of co-star Kristen Stewart (of Twilight fame). There’s no Bella here, and the material, which includes marital isolation and incarceration, is mature, and includes a teen girl propositioning an adult man as well as a fight that turns fatal. Still, it’s a thoughtful, pretty film, and there’s plenty here to hold their interest. Expect some swearing -- like "s--t" and "bitch" -- and some drinking.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 3 and 5-year-old Written bySierra Filucci March 3, 2010

not bad

This movie was better than I expected.
Teen, 17 years old Written byBryn Clare February 4, 2013

Unique Romance

This movie was great, and it offered something more than your traditional romance, which is why it appealed to me. It has a unique charm, with characters dealin... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bybananalover March 6, 2011

What's the story?

Inspired by a 1977 film by Japanese director Yoji Yamada and story by writer Pete Hamill, THE YELLOW HANDKERCHIEF starts when three strangers become unlikely companions as they hit the road southward toward New Orleans. Neglected by her father and desperate to make a guy jealous, Martine (Kristen Stewart) jumps into a beat-up car owned by Gordy (Eddie Redmayne), an awkward teen yearning to matter to someone, including to himself. They meet Brett (William Hurt), a recently released convict struggling to move forward even as he sifts through memories of a complicated marriage to his beloved wife (Maria Bello).

Is it any good?

Post-Katrina aimlessness and desolation is laid bare in this quietly powerful film by Udayan Prasad. Leading the charge is Hurt, who steps into Brett’s writ-large shoes –- the story turns on him, really -- and plays it with smart understatement. A lesser actor might’ve approached the role with too much eagerness, overdoing the pain and baggage, but not him. Far from the self-conscious Twilight “zone,” Stewart leaves ennui and vampires behind to give a wonderfully vulnerable performance, the right counterpart to Redmayne’s strangely affecting Gordy. Often underrated, Bello’s at her earthy best.

Cinematographer Chris Menges knows just how to work the images and heighten mood. THE YELLOW HANDKERCHIEF makes grit look profoundly beautiful. The run time’s tight, but some scenes feel actor-y and portentous, and there’s a loose-ness to the structure that renders it somewhat moorless. (Also, most road films collect the unlikeliest of travelers togethes, and that doesn't change here.) Thankfully, there aren’t too many of them, leaving a modest, but stunning, film about redemption and forgiveness.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what binds these three characters together. Are they believable as companions on a journey?

  • How is this film similar or different to other road trip movies? What makes it surprising (or not)?

  • Two of the three characters are in their teens, and they both seem lost. Is their depiction realistic? What do they learn from Brett, and vice versa?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama

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