Critic’s Rating : 2.5 / 5
Paradise Highway Movie Review : This slow-burning saga takes you on a gloomy road trip
Review: Sally’s (Juliette Binoche) life is dedicated to the road, as she spends her days ferrying deliveries in her huge trailer and talking to her trucker gal pals on video calls. While trucking is what she does for a living, Sally’s only mission in life is to be reunited with her brother Dennis (Frank Grillo), who puts her up to a shady delivery jobs. But little does Sally know that her latest delivery is of a young girl Leila (Hala Finley), who has been kidnapped by a human trafficking mafia. Caught between her instincts to rescue the girl and finish the job for her brother, Sally has to make some difficult choices that may not have a happy ending.
When you have Academy Award winning actors like Juliette Binoche and Morgan Freeman, who plays the wise retired FBI consultant Gerick, you go for a movie loaded with expectations. But within the first half hour or so, Norwegian writer-director Anna Gutto makes it amply clear that this road movie is going to be a slow-burning saga of human relations that only scratches the surface of the dark crimes that have always haunted the US trucking industry. Gutto uses the set-up effectively to mount her story of sibling love that is driven through Sally’s eyes. We see the insides of trucks and trailers and how truckers make the vehicles their home and the road their destiny. However, beyond this, the film’s experience doesn’t offer you anything you haven’t seen before.
For a film that’s pitched as a thriller, ‘Paradise Highway’ falls woefully short of providing any thrill at all. While the writing is unpredictable, it doesn’t ever reach a fever pitch even in the climax. Moreover, it doesn’t conclude with the kind of emotional closure we expect.
Binoche dutifully looks her part of the worn-out trucker lady, who knows how to rough it out on the roads. Her no-nonsense attitude and zero-fun policy feels like a gloomy overarching theme of the film that deals with the dark subject of child trafficking in a lazy matter-of-fact way. Grillo and Freeman both feel somewhat wasted in their roles that remain restricted in every way possible. Hala Finley is the only one who gets a certain arch to perform on – going from a defensive, non-trusting and screaming pre-teen girl to someone who matures due to the situation and all the odds stacked up against her.
With good actors and an interesting theme, this film sure had immense potential to be an engrossing watch. ‘Paradise Highway’ chooses the road less taken, but doesn’t quite make the trip worthwhile for its audience.