ADOPT A HIGHWAY – A Review by Cynthia Flores
Adopt A Highway is the writing and directing debut of working actor Logan Marshall-Green. He shows promise as a writer with this piece. His ability to write natural touching scenes is impressive. And if you can’t direct Ethan Hawke then something is wrong with you. The man is a wonderful actor and shines in practically anything he does. In this film, he plays Russ Millings, a forty-four-year-old man who has just been released from prison in California after serving twenty-one years for a third strike conviction. What cost this gentle, quiet man his freedom and his youth? It was for possessing an ounce of marijuana. As the cashier (Juan Gabriel Pareja) that helps him out at the internet cafe says, “What? Man, that’s crazy. It’s practically legal now.” He then helps him set up an email account and shows him how to navigate the internet. Russ has never been on it before and is lost. The first thing he does is google his father. Sadly, he finds out that his dad died while he was incarcerated.
As Russ works his dead-end job at a fast food place, he continues his quiet existence consisting of mostly meeting with his parole officer Orankle (Chris Sullivan) and just going home to his cheap motel room to eat fast food. He is desperate to adapt to a world he doesn’t recognize. One of my favorite bits is a single night that Russ decides to check out a local carnival. Watching him tentatively come to life and enjoying the tastes and sounds of the fair is a sweet moment.
Back at his job, after pulling a double and closing up on his own, he is putting the trash outside when he hears a baby crying in the wind. To his amazement, he finds the child in a duffle bag in the dumpster. He takes her inside to call the cops and realizes that he can’t get to the phone because it’s in the locked-up office. Dazed and confused, he takes the baby home. Once there, he finds one note with only “Her name is Ella” written on it in red. Russ doesn’t know what to do. He’s stuck between his impulses to be kind to the child and the panic of being put back in prison. He has the next few days off, so he decides that this could be his chance at redemption. He tries to keep the baby he is so ill-suited to care for. The scenes where he’s trying to figure out what to feed her or bathing her are tender and naturally funny. He even takes the baby to the beach and shares memories of him and his father with her. If the film had just stayed with him and the kid, I think it might have been a better film. Instead, due to Russ needing help with the child once she bumps her head, he is forced to turn her in and lie about when he found her. Once he loses the child, he knows he is in trouble and runs. Russ jumps on a bus, while still on probation, and goes home to Casper Wyoming. That’s when the next part of the film begins. Or what could have been a film all on its own depending on how you look at it. It’s beautiful watching Russ travel on the cheap and meet a pretty, chatty woman named Diane (Elaine Hendrix) and have a moment with her along the trip. However, it felt like a different film at that point. This new film also includes a brilliant scene at his parent’s gravesite. There, Russ finally comes home and apologies for being such a mess. The salvation Russ finds set up by his long-dead father is heart touching and bittersweet.
Adopt A Highway has a tremendously moody score by Jason Isbell and Ethan Hawke proves that he’s at the top of his game no matter the script. The problem with this film is that it felt like two movies cobbled together. There are Russ and the baby, and then Russ’s redemption as storylines. I would have liked them to be more cohesive.
That said, I give Adopt A Highway a B- rating. If you’re a fan of Ethan Hawke, then it’s still worth eighty-one minutes of your time.
Directed by: Logan Marshall-Green
Written by: Logan Marshall-Green
Selig Rating B-
Running Time: 81min
Limited Release: NOV 1st Fun Movie Grill – Irving and VOD and Digital HD
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Elaine Hendrix, Diane Gaeta, Mo McRae, Chris Sullivan, Betty Gabriel
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.