At one point in the indie drama "Redwood Highway," built around a stubborn retirement home escapee's 80-mile trek through Oregon to reach her granddaughter's beach wedding, Tom Skerritt's wry, kind widower lays his head on star Shirley Knight's shoulder in a way that is somehow bold, gentle, funny and sexy. Even better, when so many movies have trained us to expect an outsized comic payoff, Knight barely reacts.
It's a moment between consenting, seen-and-felt-it-all seniors indicative of this calmly observed tale of late-in-life anxiety and courage. The script (by director Gary Lundgren with James Twyman) is modestly feel-good to a fault and the scenery expectedly beautiful, but it's the unforced acting providing the most nourishment.
A small, pokey tale skewed more toward character charm than dramatic heft, "Redwood Highway" smartly avoids the wacky-detour ethos of so many journey movies and gives Knight's character, Marie, a series of encounters designed to illuminate her hopes and fears rather than cynically distract us.
Undeterred by blisters, injury, route confusion or worst of all, the kindness of strangers, the fiercely independent Marie is someone we root for, worry about and wring our hands over in equal measure, a potent mix that thankfully keeps "Redwood Highway" — even at its most low-boil simplistic — from ever seeming, pardon the pun, pedestrian.
"Redwood Highway." Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements including a scene of menace. At Laemmle's Town Center 5, Encino.