The main character of this film, Russell Millings (Ethan Hawke), has suffered such a fate, and we learn a few things about him based on a few clips at the beginning of the film. While in high school in Wyoming, he organized a highway debris cleanup project. Most importantly, the second headline tells us that he was arrested and sentenced to 25 years in prison for possession of an ounce of marijuana in California.
Adopt a Highway begins with Russell’s parole, 21 years after his conviction. Russell is a slow and quiet opportunity, a kind of proof that so many years in prison, especially for a non-violent crime, can break someone. He is visibly nervous, almost as if he does not want to get out of prison, although it is quite realistic that he does not want to. Maybe in the world he left behind, in the world that also left him, there is nothing left for him.
From time to time you come across a small film that was made with a modest budget, without marketing, from which you don’t expect anything, relatively speaking. This debut film of screenwriter and director Logan Marshall-Green (Logan Marshall-Green), who left a strong acting impression in the Quarry series, caught my attention only because of the appearance of Ethan Hawke in the lead role. It is a film that is not an innovative work, but an observational work with clear messages about morality, modesty, compassion and hope. The production company Blumhouse specializes in horror, so its logo in the introduction brings a dose of ominousness, but it will turn out to be for no reason.
The script presents Russell’s life after his release from prison without many words. The world has changed a lot, but we’re not so sure about Russell. He is trying to adapt to a world he does not know, to keep up with the modern pace, to get to know the basic modern achievements like the Internet or mobile phone. He could have been a decent, maybe respectable member of society, but the mistake of a young man and the justice system made him spend his best years locked up. The irony is that he was imprisoned for a crime that no longer exists or at least is not nearly as rigorous.
His everyday life filled with work and loneliness is interrupted by the discovery of a baby behind the restaurant where he works. Unsure of what to do, caught between urge and panic, Russell realizes that a baby could be a chance for redemption or a chance to find meaning in life. He acts morally, as he feels is right for someone out there alone and helpless, just like he is – Russell is a good-hearted lost soul who believes that all people are fundamentally good. The film has some really touching scenes and it’s hard not to feel sympathy for our protagonist and I believe you, like me, will be a little sad because he deserves better.
Ethan Hawke spends a lot of time talking to the baby sincerely and his simple reactions, like when he’s happy because the baby has stopped crying, are really nice to watch. His performance has a steady weight of injustice, shows a clear awareness of emotional honesty, and convincingly represents Russell’s discovery of the value of giving and receiving. He is constantly in the center of events, and his way of interacting with others is simply sad.