Film Review: Off the Rails

STUDIO: Screen Media | DIRECTOR: Jules Williamson | CAST: Kelly Preston, Jenny Seagrove, Sally Phillips, Elizabeth Dormer-Phillips, Ben Miller, Franco Nero, Judi Dench
SPECS: R | 94 min. | Comedy drama

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie

Three best friends from college recreate their post-graduation trip across Europe to honor the memory of their late friend in the appropriately named Off the Rails.

When Kate (Jenny Seagrove, Local Hero), Liz (Sally Phillips, Bridget Jones’s Diary) and Cassie (What a Girl Wants’ Kelly Preston, in her final performance) attend the funeral of their college friend Anna, they learn her last wish was for them to take her 18-year-old daughter Maddie (Elizabeth Dormer-Phillips, in her film debut) on the same European trip they had done three decades earlier. Anna’s mother (Judi Dench, Blithe Spirit) provides them with rail tickets with a departure date in just 5 days.

The goal of the excursion is to end in Palma, Spain to see the twice-yearly phenomena when the sun shines through a cathedral’s stained-glass window creating “God’s disco ball,” which they missed last time. Unfortunately, lost passports, train breakdowns and a stranger giving birth threaten to derail their journey and their friendship.

Directed by Jules Williamson (See No Evil), Off the Rails offers up a plot ripe to explore themes like death, aging and female friendships with a comedic flare, but the set-up goes off the rails from the get-go. Instead of a unique road trip featuring full formed women in their 50’s reliving one of the best times in their lives, we get bland, one-dimensional characters jumping from one formulaic moment to the next, spouting cheap anecdotes about menopause and cheating husbands. (This is frequently how commercial cinema and many male writers depict the lives of middle aged women and how they relate to each other.) A soundtrack of Blondie songs is thrown in to invoke the tone and emotion missing from Jordan Waller’s (Two Heads Creek) hollow script.

Although the leads give it their all, there’s not enough chemistry between them to convince us they were ever best friends. Anna died just a week ago and her early passing, along with any feelings they have about it or how it is affecting Maddie, are barely even discussed. Williamson takes the rail theme to heart, moving from scene to scene at the speed of barreling Amtrak–sorry, Eurostar train–without providing any substantial character beats or even savoring the film’s beautiful locations, which include London, Paris and the Italian countryside.

It might be best to manage your expectations before boarding Off the Rails.

About Janine

Janine is a dedicated fan of the 1940 film Kitty Foyle, directed by Sam Wood, written by Dalton Trumbo and starring Ginger Rogers, who won an Oscar for her portrayal. And seeing that film is all it took to make her a lifelong movie lover. Janine is excited to add her insights to the great team at