By Lisa Schwarzbaum
Updated March 03, 2010 at 05:00 AM EST
SITTIN' ON THE STOOP Kristen Stewart hangs out on the front porch in The Yellow Handkerchief
Credit: Eric Lee

William Hurt is sad and lonely as a middle-aged guy just out of prison and without an address, having alienated his wife (Maria Bello). Kristen Stewart is sad and lonely as a moody young woman who longs to be loved by her daddy. Eddie Redmayne is sad and lonely as an impulsive young man who doesn’t fit in anywhere. The three meet, as only the lonely in movies meet, and with the luck of an old convertible at their disposal, they hit the road in a post-Katrina South in the mellow melodrama The Yellow Handkerchief.

There’s a fascinating cultural backstory to be told about how this misty redemption myth, directed by U.K. TV veteran Udayan Prasad and radiantly photographed by Chris Menges, began nearly four decades ago as a column by seasoned newspaperman Pete Hamill. And about how the gist of the thing became Tony Orlando and Dawn’s hit song ”Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree.” And about how the ribbons became associated with hometown support for U.S. troops abroad. But here the fascination is Hurt, so deft at steering his character away from booby-trap clichés that he guides his young costars safely out of sap’s way and brightens an otherwise very yellowed tale. B-