Give us your opinion of Paradise Highway [Netflix] – Review in FilmTotaal
Director: Anna Guto| Script: Anna Guto | Cast: Juliette Binoche (Sally), Frank Grillo (Dennis), Hala Finley (Leila), Morgan Freeman (Gerick), Cameron Monaghan (Sterling), Veronica Ferres (Rose) ea | Time to play: 115 minutes | Year: 2022
paradise highway has a sardonic title. Life on the road isn’t exactly fun for Sally. To keep her brother alive, this trucker is forced to cooperate in the forced prostitution of an underage girl. That makes for reasonably good drama, but not the exciting thriller of marketing.
Netflix places this movie in the thriller genre and calls it ‘exciting’. But that promise is not fulfilled. paradise highway. Barring a surprise or two, you mostly sit on the seat of your chair rather than on the edge. There’s a bit of visual pressure at times, but the film quickly returns to its natural habitat; long, but cinematically beautiful scenes of the vast Mississippi.
As a result, people expecting action on criminal activities and highways, the trailer suggests, should turn around as well. There are a few bumps thrown here and there, and the truck has a few blades of grass sticking out of the grill at the end, but that’s about it. And they don’t really try to understand people smuggling either. Morgan Freeman plays a retired cop who occasionally criticizes the contextual system, nothing more. The antagonists of people smuggling are also unimportant from a broader perspective.
In all these aspects, the film is too frugal and lacking in ambition. paradise highway it only works well as a drama. A portrait of various vulnerable members of the underbelly of America, trying to cope with the fights thrown at them by others. Juliette Binoche plays truck driver Sally with a naturalness that you wouldn’t expect from an actress who normally plays very different roles. Hala Finley plays the girl, Leila. It’s amazing how good child actors are these days, especially when they’re aided by a script that avoids all the pitfalls of child writing.
Most of the time it’s just the two of them in the cab of a turquoise Peterbilt. Sally explains that you put a man’s coat in the driver’s seat to prevent unwanted visitors. Leila rests her feet on a postcard taped to the windshield showing Florida beaches. Sometimes Leila can go back to being a little girl for a moment with Sally. She other times she has to help her drive the truck when she is drunk and evading the police. Everything is done with a subtlety that doesn’t belong in a thriller or action movie, but that further helps to create an emotional bond.
Maybe the marketing team came up with tags like “exciting” and “action” because “depressing” or “slow” doesn’t really sell. But it’s the scenes between the important moments that are true. paradise highway reveals its treasures. There’s a cliché or two to that stark honesty, but that’s adequately encapsulated by good acting and, on occasion, beautiful shots of poor, rural America. The benevolent viewer thus quickly turns ‘depressing’ and ‘slow’ into ‘heartbreaking’ and ‘atmospheric’.
paradise highway can be seen in Netflix.