Ross equals Labelle in every way, as her slightly bitter, somewhat happy glances at Nina throughout the party speak volumes more than the words ever could. It’s a subtle performance, and the actor plays the night’s awkwardness with the right amount of resignation and resolve. Elizabeth Yeoman plays Sasha, who is “dating” her professor, and the young thespian plays the naivete and wide-eyed innocence with sheer delight. In one of the most memorable scenes, she’s asking to learn to cry. It is both heartbreaking and funny.
Of course, the acting can only get things so far. Bethany’s screenplay is full of stirring themes, soulful sentences, and many amusing moments that feel true to life in that cinematic, unreal sort of way. A visiting Russian, played with charisma to spare by Vincent Santvoord, has an unexpected arc that shows his humanity and jerky side. The aforementioned professor, Alex (a bewildered Joe Gillette), gets several of the funniest lines, while his story also winds up being one of the most resonant.
“…Labelle is luminous…”
Then there’s the conclusion to Highway One. It might annoy some viewers, as it seems to point to a lack of purpose. However, the poem-like soliloquy that ends it all gives audiences several points to mull over: our perception of reality, how/why we form attachments to people, and even if they are false, those emotions were genuine, right? The filmmaker’s sophomore feature-length effort asks a lot of the audience, but she explores each idea to its logical endgame, so long as those watching remain patient.
The early ennui plaguing the partiers at the start of Highway One makes it hard to initially relate or care about them (admittedly, that could just be a me thing). However, once the plot starts rolling, with Nina’s emergence, audiences are treated to a whip-smart, lively affair that is funny, dramatic, romantic, and everything in between. Jaclyn Bethany expertly makes it feel like viewers are attending the New Year’s Eve festivities and making new friends, which is no small feat. The end asks a lot but proves worth it for how it will stay with you long after it’s over.
"…will stay with you long after it's over."