The plot for Adopt A Highway is not complex. Hawke plays Russell Millings, who has served his time in prison, 20-years, for his third strike at the time, for selling an ounce of marijuana. Today is the day he is released, and immediately it is established that being behind those concrete wall's is all that Russell has known. Being free sounds great, but what if you spent all that time, where you learn how to live, change from a boy to a man, all in the confides of a prison? That's where he is at. Russell finds a cheap place to live, always shows up to see his probation officer, and has a steady job washing dishes at a fast food joint. The routine is what he knows, but one day, after work, Russell finds a baby in the dumpster of his place of employment with a note, stating “her name is Ella, please take care of her”. Russell is not equipped for this. He was able to handle prison, but the responsibly of a child is something else.
For some, watching Adopt A Highway will not hit them as much as it did for me. This story felt personal. I'm a relatively new parent and having children is difficult. Just as Russell is discovering, life does not give you a handbook on how to take care of them. Even if there was a guide to taking care of children, it would still be missing all the unpredictable shit that will happen. When Russell does the best he can, shopping for foods that he does not know if Ella needs, or desperately trying to figure out how to get her to stop crying, it is equally scary and emotional. I felt all of that. An emotional rush, that feeling of having a life in your own hands. Russell is learning, growing, and this beautiful child instantly makes a difference in his life. Who other than Ethan Hawke to pull that emotion out of audiences? His performance is there on his face, his mannerisms, tears in his eyes, like a scared teen in the body of an adult. Russell Millings is a character brought to life because Ethan Hawke is a great actor.
The third act of Adopt A Highway is about where the road is taking Russell. His care taking of Ella will eventually come to an end, something that has put his probation in jeopardy, but also has him hoping to give Ella the better life he never had. He takes a bus to Montana and meets a woman named Diane (Elaine Hendrix), where he is going, I can't really say, but Adopt A Highway is not interested in sugar coating anything. This is a movie about growing as a person. A character such as Russell Millings is a bit in all of us. Someone that has made mistakes in life, paid for his misdeeds, and does the best he can to survive. There's not a condemning of the prison system or a negative outlook on parenting, just a story of a man, looking to make life better for himself. He finds it in the strangest of places.
This is why the final result of Adopt A Highway got to me. Logan Marshall-Green has made a powerful film, telling a story from the heart. There should be more, honest movies made about men such as this. Marshall-Green is not afraid to show man's imperfections, not afraid to show that men can be flawed human beings, but in the end, he reveals our resilience, our redemption. I viewed Adopt A Highway as a rallying call, a message for men to pick up the slack in childcare. We can be great parents. We can do it all. We just need to navigate those fears and we will be okay in the end. Adopt A Highway is special. Seek it out and learn from it.
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady
MOVIE: ADOPT A HIGHWAY
STARRING: ETHAN HAWKE; ELAINE HENDRIX; BETTY GABRIEL
DIRECTED BY: LOGAN MARSHALL-GREEN
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
There is something beautiful about Ethan Hawke. This is an acting legend, in my opinion, a man who has put his sweat and tears into the profession of cinema, and made it better because of that effort. You don't need to tell director Logan Marshall-Green this, he knows, and when you have an actor of Hawke's caliber on your set, you can trust that your first movie is surrounded with good people. I just didn't know Marshall-Green would make a movie this powerful. Adopt A Highway, is a tightly written, compact story, about a man allowed back into the world, after 20-years of prison, and finding his own purpose in life. There has been a trend in movies this year, about masculinity, what it means to be a good man, such as Ad Astra, The Irishman, and Being Frank, but Adopt A Highway might be the movie with the most emotional punch. What better person could do that other than Ethan Hawke?