While Adopt A Highway might not sound like a visual feast, there are several stunning looking shots and sequences throughout. Director of photography Pepe Avila del Pino uses wide, sweeping shots at the start, to show how the world is engulfing Russell. As Ella helps the man to grow into his best possible self, the shot composition gets tighter. It is subtle but beautifully illustrates Russell’s journey in a visually rich way.
Considering this is Logan Marshall-Green’s directorial debut, he demonstrates an acute awareness of emotional honesty. Nothing in the movie feels forced or misleading, as the warmth play out with a truthful grace that resonates with the viewer long after Adopt A Highway ends. It reminded me, in the best possible way, of the standout films in Tom McCarthy’s filmography (The Station Agent, The Visitor, Spotlight).
“…Hawke tends to gravitate towards films that are off the beaten path…”
As a writer, Marshall-Green has a great set-up and fantastic, realistic characters to play around with. But, his story structure runs into a problem during the second half. At a certain point, Russell needs to settle some family affairs in Casper, Wyoming. However, it brings up something odd. I hesitate to call it a plot hole, but it is a bit of a conundrum. Remember, Russell is still on parole.
While it is true that parole laws vary state by state, unless authorized by the parole officer, most places see that you remain in whichever state you are already in. It is never made clear if Russell got permission to go on this road trip, and given that he is cooperating with authorities in figuring out who dumped Ella, him just up and leaving is impossible to buy fully.
Mind you, the trip, where he meets Diane (Elaine Hendrix), is necessary for the character to undertake and for the plot to achieve its intended and excellent resolution. But getting there proves a bit bumpy. Since Adopt A Highway does even run an hour and a half, adding a few scenes to clarify these matters does not feel like too much of a burden, and the film would still be a lean running machine.
Adopt A Highway stumbles to get to its second act, but that is the only problem in Logan Marshall-Green’s first screenplay. As a director, Logan Marshall-Green impressively hones in on the humanity at the certain of his story. It is all anchored by one of Ethan Hawke’s most compassionate and sweet performances of all time. He works wonders to bring the ex-con to life and is ably aided by a stellar supporting cast.
"…demonstrates an acute awareness of emotional honesty."