Friday, March 15, 2019

SXSW with Abe: Adopt a Highway

I’m excited to be attending the film festival at South by Southwest for the second time, and I’ll be posting reviews throughout the week as I see as many movies as possible!

Adopt a Highway
Directed by Logan Marshall-Green
Narrative Spotlight

Cinema is designed to immerse people in experiences that might not be their own, and to get them to feel empathy for a connection with the characters portrayed on screen. That may not always be possible, depending upon the motivation of a protagonist or antagonist, but becoming invested in what is being shown is crucial to the success of most movie-watching experiences. Predicting the events that will happen as a result of poor decision-making on the part of character doesn’t necessarily diminish the effectiveness of a film, but it rarely enhances it.

Russell Millings (Ethan Hawke) is released from prison after serving twenty years for drug possession on his third strike. Though he has no idea how to interact with modern society, not owning a cell phone or having an e-mail account, Russell exhibits a gentleness atypical of those who have spent considerable time behind bars. When he finds a baby in a dumpster behind the fast food restaurant where he works, his impulse to take her home and care for her rather than to call the police sets his life on a new course, one that he’s hopeless to control as he simply tries his best to do the right thing.

Hawke is having a tremendous renaissance in his career right now, directing “Blaze” and starring in a number of films, including “Juliet, Naked,” “Stockholm,” and the critically-lauded “First Reformed,” last year. He definitely has the right sensibility to play this character in actor Logan Marshall-Green’s directorial debut, meek in most of his interactions merely because he doesn’t have much to say, and isn’t looking to get into any trouble after a mistake cost him so much of his life. It’s hardly his most emotive or compelling performance, but there isn’t another actor who might have been better-suited for the part.

As a whole, the film doesn’t feel terribly timely or enticing, lacking a true urgency in both its plot and pacing. Though Russell is obviously affected by a fear of doing something wrong, it seems abundantly clear that his ill-fated plans to care for an infant that isn’t his will go awry. Watching that process is unrewarding, and this film, which clocks in at a strangely short seventy-eight minutes, doesn’t demonstrate its value. An extended scene featuring the very talented Elaine Hendrix in a puzzling role shows that there may have been potential, but it’s not on display in this very lackluster finished product.


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