A.D. Calvo’s “The Other Side of the Tracks” opens with a lot of train imagery, including a foreboding flashback to an accident involving a…you guessed it: train. Then we meet Josh (Brendan Fehr), who happens to be walking along the train tracks, on his way to a dead-end job at the local pizza parlor (which is housed inside an old railroad car). During his shift, Josh is unexpectedly reunited with an old high-school friend, Rusty (Chad Lindberg), with whom he has fallen out of touch with since graduation. Josh is surprised to see him, but eventually the two fall back into the rhythms of their youth. At first, Josh seems a bit uneasy about his old friend’s overwhelming enthusiasm for the two of them to rekindle their friendship, but Josh goes along with it and the two seem to get along well, considering the ten-year absence they have to initially overcome.
Enter Amelia (Tania Raymonde, from television’s “Lost”), who has just been hired as a waitress at the pizza joint and reminds Josh of “someone he used to know.” Following Amelia’s arrival, Josh becomes even more withdrawn and seems unable to conduct even the most simple interactions with friends and family. And then comes the pizza-making scene…
During this scene, the audience becomes fully aware (if they hadn’t caught any of the many hints dropped earlier in the film) of the central conceit of the film. And if you didn’t catch it the third time, the filmmakers take great pains to hammer it home over the course of the second act. Not only do they show their hand, but they continue to reveal it with techniques that feel like sledgehammers to the audience’s collective head (including the repeated use of on-the-nose musical tags).
Brendan Fehr does a passable job in the lead role, but is no match for Chad Lindberg, who manages to dominate any scene in which he appears. The rest of the cast does a good job with the material they have to work with, but the script really doesn’t do them any favors. By the time the film arrives at its inevitable conclusion, it actually becomes difficult to watch because you just want them to get to the flashback that confirms what you know they have been building up to all along.
I adhere to a strict rule of trying not to stay one step ahead of a movie, as I actually enjoy being surprised once in a while. If it’s worth anything to a potential viewer, this was the first time in recent memory that it was impossible for me to stick to my rule because the film insisted on telegraphing, reminding and repeating itself to its audience to such a degree that it nearly ruined the viewing experience for me.
Editorial Note: According to the writer-director, this review is supposedly of a pre-release early cut of the film, in case you were wondering.