Familiar drama is too sure and immemorial

Committing fully to the film, as one might be forced to do in a theatrical setting, will prove unrewarding – both intellectually and emotionally.

movies like The galena road challenge film critics. The age of Rotten Tomatoes has ossified the notion that reviews are either positive or negative, but many films live in a space between enthusiastic approval and searing dismissal, where the usual adjectives hardly seem appropriate. They’re kind of an emotional doldrums, eliciting no reaction either for or against, strong enough to encourage more than a passing conversation. How, then, are we supposed to generate readable, even puzzling prose about our viewing experience? Without simplifying the exercise by letting the assessment communicated here artificially swing in one direction or the other, the best option seems to accept The galena road as a safe story told safely, and highlight a few ways the film could have done more with what it had to work with.


From writer-director Joe Hall, The galena road covers decades in the life of Cole Baird (Ben Winchell), who finds himself on a life path he never wanted without knowing how to get out of it. Although he dreams of owning a farm in his hometown of Galena, Maryland, marrying his high school sweetheart Elle (Aimee Teegarden), and working alongside his childhood best friend Jack (Will Brittain), his father John (Jay O. Sanders) wants him to dream bigger. A brief prelude that later reveals him as a lawyer, living in Washington DC and married to another woman (Alisa Allapach), promises many failed attempts to return to that dream. Is he destined to live a life of nominal success that will never truly satisfy him? Or can he find his way back to Galena before it’s too late?

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Ben Winchell in The Road to Galena

These questions are not the most interesting to ask about this story. Even ignoring the fact that most readers can probably imagine the ending, telling the audience in the first few minutes that Cole is going at least 20 years later, this life path drains the tension from one of his plans to leave him. . The galena road could have asked instead Why someone would spend so long building a life they don’t want when the way back is still so clear. But the reasons are more presented than explored: social pressure, first from his father, then from his career-driven wife. But is that really all it takes? Though he dreams of farming, Cole seems like an extraordinary lawyer, succeeding with minimal signs of fatigue – could he secretly love the feeling of being so good at something? There are very overt story parallels in Galena involving her friend Jack that might make Cole wonder if her dream life is so dreamy after all. The fact that he never considers this line of thought, when it will no doubt be all some viewers think about, is frankly absurd.

This lack of thematic and narrative ambition translates into the characters, most of which are quite underwritten. The most important thing about each of them is their position in Cole’s life, in that when they act against his expectations of them, it’s more a sign of his misunderstanding than their own lives. interior. It’s a shame, because Cole, despite his so aggressive “main character”, makes his way through life, it’s hard to care about him. A scene in which Jack approaches John, who is the town banker, for a loan to buy property ends up being one of the most interesting in the film, simply because they have a real interaction without the protagonist dictates their behavior.

Will Brittain and Jay O. Sanders in The Road to Galena

And yet, even with The galena road following its most predictable path, it’s not entirely wrong. There’s a certain comfort to being carried through this narrative, with each turn coming exactly where the audience expects it to be, it’s like watching an episode of a subpar sitcom. Committing fully to the film, as one might be forced to do in a theatrical setting, will prove unrewarding – both intellectually and emotionally. But it’s the kind of movie that’s perfect for streaming while doing chores, or for lighting up after a long day at work with the intention of putting your brain to sleep. In those settings, where safe storytelling is sometimes all that’s needed, people could do a lot worse than this movie.

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The galena road hits theaters and digital on Friday, July 8. The film is 110 minutes long and is rated R for language.

Our assessment:

2 out of 5 (OK)

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