American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"Flesh and Bone" is one of those films where the sins of the past insidiously poison the present. It opens in a scene eerily reminiscent of "In Cold Blood," as a young boy is used as a decoy to get his father into an isolated farmhouse. The father is a thief - and a murderer, it turns out, as the entire family is shot to death except for a young girl.
There's a flash-forward of 25 years, and, yes, inevitably, that young boy and girl meet again. It's a small world out there under the big Texas sky.
The boy has grown up into Arlis Sweeney (Dennis Quaid), a melancholy loner who lives out of his pickup truck and roadside motels, servicing a chain of vending machines. The woman is Kay Davies (Meg Ryan), unhappily married, familiar with barrooms, just a little too cheerful.
When Kay shows Arlis a photo of her family, he immediately knows this is the same family that was wiped out by his father - deaths that the boy has carried as painful guilt for 25 years. Kay likes Arlis, and doesn't know why he behaves so strangely toward her, every line a portent of doom.