THE ROAD TO GALENA

Vertical Entertainment
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net, linked from Rotten Tomatoes by Harvey Karten
Director: Joe Hall
Screenwriter: Joe Hall
Cast: Ben Winchell, Will Brittain, Aimee Teegarden, Alisa Allapach, Jayh O. Sanders, Jennifer Holliday, Jill Hennessy, Margaret Colin
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 6/16/22
Opens: July 8, 2022

In 1919, American soldiers stationed in Europe were returning from the war, many of them having seen Europe for the first time in their lives. Walter Donaldson, Joe Young and Sam M. Lewis cashed in on this idea with the song that goes “How ya gonna keep ‘em/ Down on the farm/ After they’ve seen Paree.” After one hundred three years, writer-director Joe Hall answers the question. In the “Road to Galena,” Hall, in his debut full-length movie, might reply that if farm life is in your blood, you can be offered the Taj Mahal, the jewels of Topkapi, and maybe Greenland provided that you live where those treasures are found, and you will still return to the farm. He doesn’t mention Paris or any of the other inducements, but finds a guy who gets a job allowing him to drive a BMW, have a country club membership, receive invitations to gala Washington parties, and realizes to his dismay that life is passing him by. Huh?

Ben Winchell in the lead role as Cole Baird makes us almost believe that he would chuck the toys and every perk that comes with corporate law if he could be, aw shucks, just a country lawyer with a farm. It’s not that he is encouraged to follow his downscale dreams. His dad John (Jay O. Sanders), his mom Teresa (Jill Hennessey), his wife Sarah (Alisa Allapach), his boss Margaret (Margaret Colin), his best friend Jack (Will Brittain), all mess with Cole’s mind, but darn it if Cole doesn’t wrestle with his conscience and come up with the right thing to do. Only his down-home former gal Elle (Aimee Teegarden) regrets that her guy’s going off to college and then to law school. She would have preferred that Cole remain doing what heaven put him on this earth to do.

If this looks like a soap, it is; in fact it could easily find a place on TV daytime, advertised, of course, by the card you buy when you care enough to send the very best. Still, it’s entertaining enough, its people filled with humanity. There’s the dad who tells him that the desire to be a farmer is a faux romantic notion. Independent farmers are not doing well especially with big agriculture taking over their lands after undercutting local prices and putting them out of business. The father is himself a man that dreamed of being a Wall Street banker and has to settle for a job in the small town of Galena, Maryland, in that state’s Eastern shore.

Ben Winchell turns in a good performance, making us almost believe that he considers giving up a chance at a law partnership to opt for the simpler things in life. Though Henry David Thoreau held that “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave will the song still in them,” he may not have thought of men who make upwards of a million dollars a year in today’s money. But writer-director Joe Hall could easily love being a partner for the Hallmark card people.

113 minutes. © 2022 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Onli

Story – C+
Acting – B
Technical –B
Overall – B-

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By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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