CAPSULE: Gary Lundgren directs from a screenplay he co-wrote with James Twyman. Shirley Knight plays Marie, an elderly woman who objects to her granddaughter's wedding. Refusing the help of her son she sets out to walk to the wedding eighty miles away from home in only eight days. She finds the plan more difficult and dangerous than she expected and learns a little about life from her experience. Knight is a veteran actress and she makes a good showing here. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
Marie Vaughn (played by Shirley Knight) finds herself unhappy and even a bit belligerent as she approaches her 80s. All her life she has not been a whole person. She feels too much is being taken from her as she ages. Having dreams of her dead husband, Marie is haunted by visions of his image. Her home is in a half-sleeping retirement community that was chosen for her by her family and she wants all to know giving up her freedom was not her idea.
Right now she is particularly upset. Her granddaughter Naomi (Zena Gray) is marrying a drummer ten years Naomi's senior. Marie, who has been known to be a little unruly herself, is sure that this marriage is a bad idea. But nobody seems to care a lot that Marie has objections. Naomi's father, Marie's son Michael (James Le Gros) wants to drive Marie to the wedding some eighty miles away but Marie decides not to cooperate. Marie refuses to go to the wedding with her son. Then without telling anyone she decides to pack a backpack and walk the eighty miles in the three days before the wedding. This will prove to herself as much as others that she still has the strength and commitment.
The views of the title road in Oregon are majestic, not to the viewer's surprise. Her plan could have been better thought out as the road and the trail through the woods have dangers to a woman of her age. She faces foot blisters, bad weather, wild animals (some of which are human), and her own physical limitations. She thinks about her past and dreams of her deceased husband. And, of course, with any road film she meets people along the way. Some want to help her and some are less friendly. Her act of defiance teaches her as much about her family as she hoped it would teach them.
Perhaps it is unintentional and perhaps it is a major irony of the film, but by the time her travels are over other people have been imposed upon far more than if Marie had not decided to be so self- reliant. But still the trip rewarded Marie in ways she never expected.
The acting is well above par, to be expected from Knight whose film acting goes back to PICNIC (1955). Her career encompasses stage, screen, and even her first medium, opera. Tom Skerritt plays Pete, one of Marie's more rewarding discoveries. Pete makes art or perhaps furniture from burl, knotted wood growth from trees. The burl is perhaps a metaphorical reach and a comment on Marie. Otherwise the story is more or less straightforward, perhaps to a fault. In any case Marie learns to lean on Skerritt's rather placid character, a complete complement to Knight's cantankerous style.
There is not a lot to REDWOOD HIGHWAY at a scant ninety minutes of road movie, but it is worth the trip to appreciate the acting. I rate it a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2515164/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/redwood_highway/
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2014 Mark R. Leeper