This film triggered two very unique emotions, - one, from the very thorough and insightful look into a period of history that had lasting and insidious effects on the people impacted by circumstances out of their control. The other, the unfortunate fact that, some 90 years after this "hobo" trend fell largely into obscurity in the public's conscious mind, the exact dilemmas and problems (and ways of dealing with those problems) not only still exist but do so in a wave that is exponentially more dire than the depictions in this documentary. You will not only find tent shelters and homeless encampments today as were common during the Depression, but if you look just a little deeper, you will also be amazed to discover how many college-educated; professional (formerly); upper-middle-class raised citizens of the "richest country in the world" are, as I write this, living in their cars, vans, or if lucky enough, small campers in campgrounds and Walmart parking lots. Today, in 2021. The main difference being, the numbers of people in these situations today are such that it makes the 1930's hobo trend look like a minor blip on the screen of American history, which it was most certainly not. It was a large-scale trend back then, impacting thousands of lives of young kids and their families. What is so sad, unfortunately, is that after all this time, nothing has changed. (At least not for the better).
The documentary itself is a work of art - it shows not only the lives these kids led in vivid detail, through first-hand interviews and actual archival footage, but it also manages to impart, interspersed with the stories of hardship, the undeniable element of the lure of freedom, self-sufficiency, and romanticism that initially drew many into that lifestyle. And while not intending to diminish the problems they faced, you can't discount the part that the romantic element interwoven with actual historical facts played in this trend in the country. The film was made and the interviews conducted at the perfect time, while a number of former rail-riders could still tell their stories. Thank goodness they used real footage and classic still photos, such as those by Dorothea Lange, rather than dramatizations or animated sequences. The musical score is spot-on, - with Woody Guthrie setting the background tone for many of the scenes. Actually, the only thing they could have done differently, IMO, would have been to play at some point in the film, "City of New Orleans", by Arlo Guthrie. That would have been a nice touch of icing on the cake of this beautiful, compassionate and insightful piece of Americana.