Actor Logan Marshall-Green’s directorial debut, “Adopt a Highway,” is an affective portrait of a unique life, sketched lovingly and anchored by Ethan Hawke. He’s a heartbreaker as Russell Millings, a recently released convict trying to find his footing in life after serving 20 years in prison for marijuana possession, a victim of California’s draconian three-strikes sentencing law.
Thrust into a changed world with no friends or family, Russell tries to make himself a life, holding down a modest fast food job, struggling to understand technology and human interaction. One night while alone at work, Russell hears a baby’s cries coming from the dumpster, and he’s suddenly faced with a terrifying choice, given his circumstances.
Marshall-Green’s screenplay subtly subverts expectations. Though Russell’s understanding of the intricate dance of intimate human interaction and societal expectations is fumbling at best, his self-preservation instincts prevail, and he manages, against all odds, to right himself when he missteps. Despite his perilous understanding of the world in which he finds himself, Russell has a sense of morality that springs from empathy and a desire to care for others. It’s refreshing that Marshall-Green’s film allows that love to come back to Russell in forms big and small.
“Adopt a Highway” is a small film but mighty, thanks to Hawke’s reserved yet touching performance as a broken man learning to test his wings again, and Marshall-Green’s willingness to take Russell down unexpected paths.
Running time: 1 hour, 21 minutes
Playing: Starts Nov. 1, Laemmle Town Center 5; also on VOD