A certain amount of honest, down-home flavor mixes with an excess of melodramatic schmaltz in this Texas-made movie. Although it’s set in current times, Red Wing is a story about country folk and their moral strengths and prejudices. The screenplay is adapted from George Sand’s 19th century novel François le Champi (The Country Waif) by Austin writing instructor Kathleen Orillion.
In Red Wing, an orphan named Francis (played as a child by Austin Harrod and as an adult by Austin native Glen Powell) bounces from bad to barely adequate foster homes until he lands with Maddie (Johnson) and Carl (Perry) Blanton. Parents of another young son, the Blantons live on a farm that has been in the family for generations. Carl’s mother Momma B (Fisher) lives with them and her mean spirit seems more in tune with attitudes from George Sand’s time: An orphan will never amount to anything since he was born with bad blood. Carl’s social opinions are only a little more advanced than his mother’s: He treats his wife like dirt when he’s around, and cheats on her when he’s not. Carl also falls victim to town gossip that whispers that the hunky teenaged Francis is getting it on with Maddie – who is as virtuous and kind as Carl is rotten and small-minded. The conflict causes Francis to move away, only to return years later, ready to make good on his longtime love for the older Maddie.
The film’s beautifully filmed countryside panoramas are resonant of North Texas, and serve as a reminder of the way the natural world is revealed in the films of director Will Wallace’s stepfather Terrence Malick. Malick is an executive producer of Red Wing, along with his Sunflower Productions partner Ed Pressman, and Patricia L. Carpenter. Though he has several films to his credit, Wallace is still not a master of pacing and transitions. Although suited to its environment, the film’s slow pace only emphasizes its weaknesses: inconsistent performances, paper-tiger villains, ham-handed dramatics, and an overbearing soundtrack. Red Wing flaps hard, but never achieves flight.