Redwood Highway Review – Taking an Unforgettable Walk Through a Life Well Lived

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Redwood Highway,” from Ageless Cinema and Redwood Highway Productions, presents a road film, full of wonder, awe, drama, symbolic of life’s journey where dreams are the driver, roadside stops pleasant and detours awakening.

Starring two-time Oscar nominee Shirley Knight, “Redwood Highway” also stars Tom Skerritt, James Le Gros and Zena Grey. “Redwood Highway” was directed by Gary Lundgren who along with Producer James Twyman co-wrote the screenplay. “Redwood Highway” is also produced by Gary Kout.

We are introduced to Marie, a feisty, youthful, senior citizen, played flawlessly by two-time Oscar nominee, Shirley Knight, as she is just completing a 45minute walk. She lives in an active retirement community and is very unhappy.

Her son, Michael, played by James LeGros, has moved her to this place so she can be around people her own age and they can all commiserate together. She is now in the place of dying dreams.

Oddly, it is also the place where memories are the strongest, the hopes, and possible regrets, events outside of one’s control, life shows up and becomes a driving force for the few; the burial ground for others.

The newest bone of contention between mother and son is her attendance at her granddaughter Naomi’s, played by Zena Grey, wedding.  She is in love with her drummer boyfriend and the two are getting married.

After a heated phone message Marie decides to attend the wedding her way and will walk the Redwood Highway 100 miles to her granddaughter’s wedding. It is not a grand gesture, she has the transportation. It is truly a selfish, albeit brave, gesture.

Marie, our sojourn traveler, takes to the highway “packed out” a common term for hikers in the redwoods area. She’s obviously comfortable walking and in love with the countryside. Walking nearly eight to ten hours a day, she is in surprisingly good shape. Day one she meets a sheriff, who due to her age alone is suspect of her.

She then meets Pete Peterson, played by Tom Skeritt, a truly fine and underrated talent, who attempts to befriend her. Marie, still stinging from buried hurts, allows him close enough to nurse her wounds and touch her deeply buried heart. She decides to rest in his nicely carved tree house. Alternative lifestyles seem to be normal on the Redwood Highway.

With two deep blisters, she is grounded for a day as her new found friend prepares her for the rest of her trip. Her continued refusals for assistance, courtesies and kindnesses become infuriating.

The trip through the Redwood National Park seems to be the last place where she and her young family were happy. Again, the script and director reduce a life to those days, times, seasons and events, the singular moment, the buried memory or the prevailing driving memory, the one that keeps you, holds you, the one that stays when all others have left.

Our Marie is plagued by visions of her loving, happy family, which we don’t find out for some time was taken from her prematurely through a catastrophic accident and become the force that propels her on the last great journey of her life.

She reminded me so much of my own mother, Pauline, that I found myself talking to the screen as Marie, does exactly what I’ve seen with my own mother. Not of course walking the 100 miles, but the manipulation, the attempts to regain power, knowing the triggers, the pushing buttons like only family can, especially as age, not necessarily death, and yes, death approached. And I see it isn’t only mothers and daughter as Marie’s son has the same exasperations with her that any caring child would have with someone they truly want to protect.

The unnecessary risks, the chances, the clear desire to live and yet placing oneself in situations that are extremely dangerous. It seems as age increases, the desire to live, is overpowering and pushing the danger boundaries increase all the more. Possibly the rush of adrenaline; I can still conquer; I still have it. Or at least that’s what I thought with my own mother, who seems to mirror Marie.

Some films merit the mention of the cinematography, “Redwood Highway” is one of those films. Patrick Neary’s grasp of the films lifeblood is dazzling and nothing short of genius. He captures the majesty of the Redwood National Forest and the breathtaking beauty of the Northern California/Oregon coastline and leaves the viewer breathless, lost in their own imagination.

The mist off the waves as they tumble into the shoreline, sea foam on sand, rocks jutting out of the Pacific Ocean, all incredibly dramatic, beautiful and seducing. Redwood National Park is predominately featured and the majesty of the trees is awe inspiring.

Redwood Highway” is visually stunning, a beautiful ode to the Pacific Northwest. Challenging as it deals with ageism, parental relationships, disposable attitudes, lost seasons, unresolved wounds, the battering of unexplainable injures, and the handoff as the three generations, each lost in societies prescribed roles, attempt to fight the boundaries and carve out new terms.

“Redwood Highway” opens for sneak peeks in select cities August 22, 2013.



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