Redwood Highway: Film Review

Redwood Highway Still - H 2014
Monterey Media

Redwood Highway Still - H 2014

Slim road trip offers little more than scenery.

Shirley Knight plays a woman hiking across Oregon for her granddaughter's wedding.

A distant distaff cousin to such oldster-on-a-mission road movies as The Straight Story and Nebraska, Gary Lundgren's Redwood Highway offers Shirley Knight as a woman determined to walk the 80 miles to her estranged granddaughter's seaside wedding. Sincere and bolstered by lovely Oregon scenery but often rather dull, the picture would do well to secure a family-cable berth after what is sure to be a quick theatrical run.

Knight's Marie is the usual neglected elder who resents being moved from her home into a retirement community, but here we're led to believe that her son (James Le Gros) has legitimate reasons for the emotional distance. (The script never does more than hint at his grievances.) Having upset everyone by refusing an invitation to the wedding, Marie has a change of heart when the girl (Zena Grey) leaves her an angry "I didn't want you to come anyway" voicemail; but she doesn't tell her family, and instead packs a backpack and sets off along forested roads to the coast.

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Lundgren gets a broad performance out of Knight in these early scenes, having her crouch around semi-comically as she tries to get away, and this approach deepens only slightly as the film progresses. Marie tromps obstinately through some lovely woods, camps near lakes and has encounters with numerous strangers who try to convince her to let them drive her instead of walking. One is Pete, a rugged craftsman played by Tom Skerritt; but though marketing materials make much of his presence, suggesting the film is an autumnal romance, the actor's enjoyable appearance is limited to a few scenes. More substantial is an encounter with a Good Samaritan bartender (Michelle Lombardo), who takes Marie in when she knocks her head on a rock. (Actual dangers are minimized here, with the exception of a fairly unbelievable run-in with two young drug addicts squatting in an abandoned motel.)

The film offers frequent flashbacks to Marie's own wedding day and visions of her long-dead husband, suggesting she is carrying a weight of nostalgia that needs to be left somewhere along the road. But the script does little with the theme and Lundgren's execution is clumsy, failing to support what is clearly meant to be a showcase role for Knight.

Cast: Shirley Knight, James Le Gros, Tom Skerritt, Zena Grey, Michelle Lombardo

Director: Gary Lundgren

Screenwriters: Gary Lundgren, James Twyman

Producers: Gary Kout, James Twyman

Director of photography: Patrick Neary

Production designer: Dave Marshall

Costume designer: Claudia Everett

Editor: Gary Lundgren

Music: John Askew

Rated PG-13, 90 minutes