In 1942, Homer Macauley (Alex Neustaedter) is a boy determined to be the best and fastest bicycle telegraph messenger of his city. His older brother, Marcus (Jack Quaid), along with most of the young boys of the city, has gone to war, leaving the families worried. His father died recently and the boy has to take care of his widowed mother (Meg Ryan), his older sister and his 4-year-old brother. Homer becomes the only telegraph messenger of the city, delivering the letters that bring messages of love, wishes, pain and death, hoping that one of them announces the return of his brother.Alex Neustaedter as Homer Macauley
Meg Ryan as Kate Macauley
Jack Quaid as Marcus Macauley
Sam Shepard as Willie Grogan
Hamish Linklater as Tom Spangler
Tom Hanks as Matthew Macauley
Christine Nelson as Bess Macauley
Spencer Howell as Ulysses Macauley
Zachary Webber as Horse
Nick Williams as Texas
Lois Robbins as Mrs. Beaufrere
Robin Skye as Mrs. Brockington
Scott Shepherd as Corbett
Jacob Rodriguez as Shag
On January 29, 2014, it was announced Meg Ryan would direct Ithaca, a film based on the 1943 novel The Human Comedy by William Saroyan, with Ryan, Sam Shepard, Hamish Linklater, and Ryan's son Jack Quaid starring in the film. On June 25, 2014, Tom Hanks joined the cast. Principal photography began on July 21, 2014, and ended on August 22, 2014. It was filmed in Petersburg, Virginia, and also some opening scenes of the film were shot on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.
The film premiered on October 23, 2015, at the Middleburg Film Festival. The film was released on September 9, 2016, by Momentum Pictures.
John Mellencamp, Ryan's former boyfriend, wrote the entire score for the movie. "Not one note [in Ithaca] is anything other than Mellencamp. He did everything," Ryan said.
In a May 6, 2016 Q&A after a screening of the movie at Geena Davis' Bentonville Film Festival, Ryan said: "The music is so beautiful. John Mellencamp wrote every note – everything – the tiny little needle drops you hear in the back. He wrote about half of it after I read him the script, and then the next half after he saw the movie. He's just incredible."
In addition to the score, Mellencamp wrote two original songs for Ithaca: "Sugar Hill Mountain" (sung by Carlene Carter) and "Seeing You Around" (sung by Leon Redbone). "Sugar Hill Mountain" is a fiddle-driven folk song that describes an idyllic location where there's "bubble gum and cigarette trees," no clocks, every day is spring, and anything you need is "gratis." Meanwhile, the piano-heavy "Seeing You Around" has the sound of a 1940s standard (the time period the movie takes place in) and is made all the more authentically '40s-sounding by Redbone's gruff, baritone vocals. Mellencamp's band provided the backing on both tracks and performed all the music that is in the movie.
Said Carter in 2015: "The way John Mellencamp and I met was he invited me to come and sing this song he had written for the movie that Meg Ryan has coming out called Ithaca. That was when we became friends, when I went to Indiana and recorded with him and the guys this really cool song called 'Sugar Hill Mountain' that's in the movie. And the movie is wonderful. We got to see a rough cut of it and I was very impressed."
The film has a 13% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on fifteen reviews.