Redwood Highway (NR)

May 9, 2014
By Katherine Vu
If only the intimate, languid views of Oregon's lush, sprawling forests and rock-strewn coastline could inject Redwood Highway with their life and verve. In this drama's best moments, the unbridled energy of the Pacific beating against the land in endless, roaring refrain speaks to the heart of Marie (Shirley Knight), the high-spirited, stubborn sixtysomething woman at its center. However, a messy plot, bursting at the seams with conveniently kind characters, stifles the pleasures of the beautiful setting.

When Marie refuses to attend her granddaughter's wedding, fulminating over the couple's age difference and haunted by her own doomed marriage, her family tells her she was unwanted, anyway, and rescinds her invitation. Fueled by regret and stubbornness, she decides to crash the wedding, sneaking out of her retirement community to walk the entire 80 miles alone through the forest.

Despite often being as impenetrable and lonesome as the wild terrain that surrounds her, Marie has the inexplicable ability to meet strangers willing to drop everything to help her. Her feisty, fleeting moments of openness charm their quirky rural personalities to no end. She becomes fast friends with a charismatic older wood craftsman (Tom Skerritt) and a young small-town barkeep (Michelle Lombardo), both of whom provide her with food, shelter, and even treat her injuries with their handy medical know-how.

At the end, there's a vague feeling that seeing the vast, churning ocean is supposed to be redemptive and renewing, like a baptism. Instead, it just feels wet and cold.