Off The Rails


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Off The Rails
"This high-speed dash through the story, gets away with some of its failings thanks to its sheer velocity but it just as often hurtles past what could be a poignant moment, when you wish Williamson would just take a breath."

Jules Williamson's tale of resparked middle-aged friendship has surely been made with mums in mind, many of whom will feel a nostalgic glow at the thought of interrailing - and, sight unseen, it is also likely to hold plenty of attraction for mum and daughter cinema fans over the summer. They should be warned to dial down their expectations, particularly if they're hoping for a Mamma Mia! style singalong, as the Blondie music here, though plentiful and energetic, is chiefly used to overlay the action rather than providing an anchor within it.

The set up is simple - 50something trio Kate (Jenny Seagrove), Cassie (Kelly Preston, in her final film role before her death and to whom the film is dedicated) and Liz (Sally Phillips) attempt to recreate an interrailing trip to Palma from their youth, after the death of their friend Anna, taking Anna's daughter Maddie (Elizabeth Dormer-Phillips) with them. In a mark of what is to come, the film gets a lot of its emotion out of the way at the start, with Anna's funeral - with Judi Dench on "gravitas" duties - after which the women discover their dead friend has left them some interrailing tickets. The idea is, it seems that she wants them to finally see a rare phenomenon created by sunlight and stained glass at cathedral in Palma, which they have branded "God's disco ball", that they missed when they attempted the trip decades before.

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The action, dictated by the sort of stop-offs and problems you probably expect, does have the vibe of an interrailing tour, not just of Europe but of emotions. So, in the same way an interrailer might stop off for a quick twirl round the Leaning Tower of Pisa before racing on to the Eiffel Tower, you can be sure that you'll be alighting for a brief look at the river of grief, the pool of regret and the mountain of anger, but Williams doesn't really want to hang around and examine at the emotional landscape too much, preferring instead just to check them off and move on. That works to a degree thanks to the general pace and Jordan Waller's script does offer a handful of decent one-liners and is clever enough to acknowledge its contrivance - "Everything that can go wrong is going wrong," one of the women laments.

But the scriptwriter seems generally scared to do more than skim the surface. The actresses bring what depth they can to the older women, although digging deeper into their friendship would have been preferable to simply ladling on issues like a hint of mental health problems or addiction, which are glibly jettisoned almost as soon as they are mentioned. Surely, for example, in the year of our Lord 2020, we should have moved past women tossing away their antidepressants as though they were shucking off a cardigan. Dormer-Phillips - a bright and engaging presence in her first big screen role when given half a chance - is also given rather short shrift by the screenplay, disappearing off, as though the scriptwriter can't quite work out how to integrate her journey fully with that of the older generation.

This high-speed dash through the story, gets away with some of its failings thanks to its sheer velocity but it just as often hurtles past what could be a poignant moment, when you wish Williamson would just take a breath. The use of the extensive Blondie playbook helps to inject energy into proceedings but, again, it feels like a bit of a missed opportunity not to integrate the songs more fully within the action. As the film indicates, interrailing often creates memories that last a lifetime, but you'll be lucky if you can remember much of this by next week.

Reviewed on: 22 Jul 2021
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Off The Rails packshot
After the death of an old friend, a group of 50somethings go on an interrail trip with her daughter.
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Director: Jules Williamson

Writer: Jordan Waller

Starring: Kelly Preston, Elizabeth Dormer-Phillips, Ben Miller, Sally Phillips, Jenny Seagrove, Judi Dench, Franco Nero, Peter Bowles, Andrea Corr

Year: 2021

Runtime: 94 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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