Release Date: June 3
Director/Cinematographer: Alison Murray
Starring: Murray, Derek, Todd Lewendon, Wendy Schale, Andrea Oliver, Steve, Lindsay Berniche, Travis, Firecracker, Aimee, Skot
Studio/Run Time: MJW Productions, 50 mins.
Up-and-coming director’s simple but affecting train-hopping doc
Before Alison Murray garnered acclaim for directing Ellen Page in Mouth to Mouth, she made Train on the Brain, a concise meditation on modern train-hopping. Murray illegally rode the rails across North America, sometimes in relative comfort and sometimes in filthy coal cars, with an assortment of young punks and self-described hobos. Train was originally released in 2000, and Murray’s greenness is apparent in her sometimes-facile narration, especially in her condescension toward the workaday slaves she espies from her freewheeling boxcar. But the characters—from Murray herself to the slant-smiled Todd—are indelible. When one of them does a funny dance in funny sunglasses for Murray’s camera, it’s just like a set piece from a Hollywood film, except it’s real, spontaneous and moving: These kids admirably prize freedom over comfort. And Murray, even in this neophyte work, is amazing behind the camera: She films the rolling American landscape with astonishing technical facility and painterly grace.