A road movie, a tale of second chances, and an opportunity for William Hurt and Kristen Stewart to try out their Southern drawls, The Yellow Handkerchief is a surprisingly moving drama - a throwback to the small, character-driven indies of yesteryear. And since the characters are driving - from a two-bit Louisiana bayou town to New Orleans - character-driven seems particularly apt.

Adapted from a Pete Hamill short story and directed by Udayan Prasad (My Son the Fanatic), The Yellow Handkerchief finds Hurt working against type: a blue-collar oil rigger by the name of Brett Hanson, just released from jail, where he did time for a crime that won't be revealed until later on, in a series of flashbacks.

Looking paunchy and poor, and looking for a ride, he hooks up with Gordy (Eddie Redmayne), a nutty, animated kid with an old blue convertible, and with Martine (Stewart), a 15-year-old from this Nowheresville town. They make an odd trio - Hurt with his sad eyes, Stewart skittish and watchful, Redmayne (a Brit) playing it sweetly between idiot and savant.

And as the miles pass - and the ferries, the motels, the diners - Hanson tells his story. He's heading to the Big Easy to see if he can patch things up with May (Maria Bello), another fragile soul, who runs a small marina and whose relationship with Hanson was marred by a tragic incident.

Hurt, Stewart, and Redmayne do fine work here - and there's no suggestion of an older guy/young girl thing going on. (It's Redmayne who makes an awkward move on Stewart's Martine.) Here's this broken man, still with wisdom to offer, and here are these kids, unsure where their lives are leading, and here's this woman, with her houseboat and her regrets.

And the title? It's corny stuff, but the kind of corn that'll make you cry.EndText

Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/