Screenplay writer Erin Dignam and director Udayan Prasad have taken the plot outline of the Yamada film and created original characters in a rural post-Katrina Louisiana, captured in evocative images by master cinematographer Chris Menges.
Cohn has assembled a quartet of gifted actors who are captivating under Prasad's perceptive direction. Eddie Redmayne's Gordy, a skinny, sweet-natured kid with wanderlust, passes through a tiny town in his vintage convertible and gives a lift to pretty teenager Martine ("Twilight's" Kristen Stewart), upset over an overly aggressive boyfriend and eager for a change of scenery, and to Brett (William Hurt), a middle-aged man of much kindness and concern for these two young people, but not eager to talk about himself.
We gradually learn Brett's story in flashbacks as he is swept over by memories of his passionate romance with the sensuous, earthy May (Maria Bello).
As Gordy heads toward New Orleans, we discover that his passengers -- as well as himself -- are longing for a connection with someone. As the three travelers affect each other, it becomes clear that, even though he's awkward with girls, Gordy is a resilient and resourceful kid, in some ways more mature than the seemingly poised Martine, who is well aware of her sexual appeal and who regards Gordy as a nerd.
Flashbacks of Brett's memories reveal that he and May are in deep need of each other, but issues of trust have May struggling.
"The Yellow Handkerchief" is adept at making a viewer care what happens to these very likable people.