'Redemption Trail' bogs down in excessive restraint

'Redemption Trail' plays out with a sorrowful sluggishness that mimics the measured pace of recuperation

The slow progress of a wound scabbing over and flaking back into smoothness is dramatized in writer-director Britta Sjogren's restrained trauma drama, "Redemption Trail."

The paths of medical doctor Anna (Lily Rabe) and paroled criminal Tess (LisaGay Hamilton) cross when the felon finds the physician lying unconscious in the woods after a failed suicide attempt. As revealed in the film's first act, Anna has run away from her husband (Hamish Linklater) after inadvertently leading their 8-year-old daughter to her death. Unable to return to her former life, Anna takes up residence at Tess' ranch while her reluctant hostess comes to terms with her own regret-choked past.

That's more of a premise than a plot, which is how "Redemption Trail" plays out: with a sorrowful sluggishness that mimics the measured pace of recuperation but isn't very compelling to watch.

Sjogren's promising set-up, designed to unfold with understatement, ends up feeling remote and repressed when Sjogren miscalculates by burying her characters' emotions too far down. These still waters run unreachably deep.

The film's sole jolt of life comes courtesy of Tess' march into the night in a cowboy hat with a smoky-gray rifle in her hands, her jaw square with determination to right a grave wrong. Action speaks louder than sitting around in glum silence, waiting to feel better.


"Redemption Trail."

MPAA rating: None.

Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes.

Playing: At Arena Cinema, Hollywood.

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