Written and directed by young filmmaker Anna Gutto, action-drama Paradise Highway follows a well-known story and focuses more on its performances and execution. The film follows a trucker named Sally who gets involved in a dangerous smuggling job involving child trafficking. Certain moments, particularly in the second half, and appearances by Juliette Binoche, Hala Finley and Morgan Freeman make "Paradise Highway" a must-see experience that ends up effectively evoking the desired emotions.
Paradise Highway Plot Summary: What is the Movie About?
Sally, played by Juliette Binoche, is a female trucker who hauls cargo from one place to another while staying in touch with her friendly team of truckers. The only surviving member of Sally's family, her brother Dennis, is serving time in prison for a series of petty crimes and is due to be released very soon, next week. While chauffeuring, Sally visits Dennis in prison hoping this will be the last time she does so and the brothers excitedly talk about what they will do when Dennis gets out. However, just before he leaves, his brother gives Sally a small piece of paper, even showing her a horrible bruise on her neck and torso when she refuses to take it. It turns out that a group inside the prison coerced Dennis into forcing Sally to move illegal cargo from one place to another, and the woman has done so multiple times to save her brother. However, when Sally refuses to do the jobs, the criminals beat Dennis as his sister was shown at the time, and the woman helplessly agrees.
As she drives her truck to her usual meeting place, Sally sees a minivan pull up and when she asks about the cargo and looks inside the vehicle, she sees a girl of about twelve or thirteen inside. The woman who is delivering this shipment, the seller if you will, is a woman named Claire, and she gives instructions to Sally: to take the young woman to a place across the state line and deliver her to a man named Paul. Sally obviously doesn't want to be involved in such a delivery, knowing full well that it is a child trafficking case, but Claire's threats that it could be dangerous for Dennis in prison finally leads her to agree. She hides the girl in the front seats while she drives to her designated seat, and when the girl tries to strike up a conversation, she silences her and tells her not to talk. When Sally arrives at the scene after dark, she awaits the arrival of Paul, who is several minutes late, and just as he is talking to him to finish his delivery drive, the young woman shoots the man dead. He found a shotgun that Sally always kept in the van and shot its potential buyer. Paul tries to return fire, but when Sally backs away and flees the scene with the girl, the man dies from his injuries. With the girl soon to be smuggled still with her and possible murder charges on her hands, a confused Sally wonders what to do next as she drives off in her truck.
How does Sally finally open up to the young woman?
Sally is initially terribly angry at the young woman for making her such a mess, although the girl continues to scream and cry after she shoots the man, making her trauma quite evident. The truck driver pulls up at a rest area and when the girl makes it clear she doesn't want to listen to orders, Sally ties her to the back of her cab. She calls Dennis from a burner phone she uses in prison and the brother is terrified of the repercussions of the incident. He warns Sally to act normal and keep the girl with her as she is the only reason the criminals won't kill her. At the next rest stops, Sally sees that the girl is ill and takes care of her, although she is a little rusty from the company. When the girl recovers, Sally drives her truck to a large rest area and asks the girl to stay hidden behind the cabin curtains when she's not inside. The girl agrees at first, but then tries to leave, only to be confronted by a young woman who calls her suspiciously, and she runs away to hide in the back. Gradually the two get to know each other and become closer, the girl says her name is Leila. Sally presents the two options they are facing right now: go to the police and ask for help cleanly, or listen to Dennis' instructions as he always knows what to do in difficult times. Leila says she doesn't trust the police and Sally obviously shares a similar opinion on authority, so the two choose the second option.
As the truck drives through the scenic countryside, young Leila seems to enjoy the ride and now begins to follow Sally's instructions and help her keep the cab clean. Dennis contacts his sister at this point and tells her to drive to his childhood home in Arkansas where he would meet her, and Sally is immediately uncomfortable with the idea. Dennis mentions that his father died and no one else lives in his home, implying that his father regularly abused the woman. Sally confirms this and then says that Dennis would step in for his younger sister and take most of the beatings. Now he agrees to Dennis' plan and drives to another large rest area to hide from authorities and drug dealers. During this time, a man of Leila's age invites the girl to a friendly pancake party with him and her family, but Leila refuses or invites her, probably out of doubt (which is now instinctively within her) that she might get in trouble there over there. She cleans out the cubicle while Sally goes shopping and finds a box full of letters from Sally, through which she learns that Dennis is in fact a convicted felon. When Sally returns, the two fight and get angry at each other. That night, Sally wakes up to see a handwritten note left by the girl in the driver's seat, claiming that she left her because she no longer wanted to mess with her situation. While Leila sits in the boy's trailer and plays and talks with him, Sally searches desperately for her and finally gives up.
Throughout this time, police found Paul's body and launched an investigation into the matter. The case is also handled by an old retired FBI agent named Gerick (Morgan Freeman), who knows the victim very well, having been part of his own investigation. Gerick devoted his post-retirement life to solving teenage trafficking cases and bringing these criminals to justice, and he knew that Paul was one of the buyers of these girls. The man is assisted in this case by a rookie agent, Finley Sterling, whom Gerick continues to call Yale since his partner has a college degree. Together they try to figure out who might have killed the sex offender, and Gerick does everything he can to convince the police commissioner that the case is a top priority. However, the commissioner disagrees, saying there is little evidence in the case and as long as there are buyers, the child trafficking would continue. Through witnesses from neighbors in a neighborhood, the two investigators learn of a house where some recently undressed girls were staying, and a site visit confirms their suspicions. In fact, it was the place where trafficked girls were imprisoned and there was even a cage in the basement where disobedient girls were imprisoned. At the scene of the crime, it was apparent to the police that the perpetrator was in a truck, and Gerick correctly assumed that the truck driver still had custody of the girl (which is easy to guess since Paul was found at the scene). where he used to drop girls off) and searches the rest stops for an unusual trucker.
On the other hand, Claire and her partner also got the news of Paul's death and immediately came out of hiding (the same house later visited by the police). In order not to arouse suspicion, they too went looking for Leila and eventually found out where she was through their network of sex workers. The same night that Sally thinks she has lost Leila, both parties go to the truck stop to look for her and Sterling, also drunk, questions Sally, who denies knowing anything about the kidnapped girl. Two women working for Claire corner Sally, search her truck and ask her where Leila is when young Leila herself shows up and manages to get the shotgun out of the truck. She saves Sally from her attackers and leads her away from the truck stop, which Gerick also sees and orders the local police to stop the truck. Sally and Leila somehow manage to hide on the side of the road overnight and also miss the pursuing police cars.
The next morning, Leila asks Sally to take her to a nearby piece of land where she and her family lived in their trailer, and Sally immediately agrees. However, Leila is heartbroken to see her trailer missing and tells her partner how her mother became addicted to drugs, how she was sent to group homes and how she ran away to get caught. by drug dealers. Sally also shares incidents from her own childhood, about her abusive father, and the two gradually seem to be becoming the closest friends they had back then. It's understandable that Sally, growing up, sees herself in Leila, maybe worse than before, and this is made even clearer in "Paradise Highway" by a scene where the images of their two faces almost merge in a single truck window.
Since the beginning of the film, Sally seems to have kept her distance from her group of trucker friends, but now, determined to protect Leila in any way she can, she bonds with her friends, who are ready to help from the start. He transfers Leila to one of his trucks and drives his own truck onto the freeway, knowing full well that the police would be after her immediately. This happens but they don't find the girl in his van and are about to let her go when Gerick talks to her privately and tells her that he is self-employed and that she should contact him if she wants to protect the girl. . even the police. The experienced detective saw Leila's drawings in a magazine in Sally's truck and knew the girl was there, but also realized that Sally was trying to protect her. He and Sterling drive away and follow Sally's truck from a safe distance, but the woman outwits them again when she sells her trailer and drives away alone in her truck. As detectives followed Sally's vehicle from behind, they saw the now parked trailer parked and thought Sally was inside as well since the woman was long gone. He takes Leila in his truck and is now driving to Arkansas to meet Dennis.
After the siblings finally meet and share their moment together, Sally tells her brother that she wants to pay Leila the full amount asked and keep the girl. Although the brother initially doubts her intentions, she mentions how she sold her trailer to pay for the money and asks him to negotiate that deal with Claire. As night falls, Dennis wants to take the girl to an old, abandoned airport to make a deal with the smugglers, but Sally refuses to let Leila go alone with him and joins them. Alone in the truck, however, she asks her trucker friends for help and tells them where to meet. He then takes Dennis and Leila to the airport, and the three meet up with Claire and her business partner, who have also brought a minivan full of girls. While Dennis keeps Leila away from the dealers, Sally hands over the money to Claire, but the deal soon goes awry when Claire pulls a gun and her partner takes Sally hostage.
Paradise Highway ending explained: what does Sally find out about her brother?
Claire now wants Leila back into her care so she can sell her and her partner starts attacking Sally. As Dennis holds young Leila, he warns the attackers not to harm his sister, but when the male partner continues to attack Sally, the brother pulls a revolver and shoots the partner dead. Although Sally is relieved, Claire now starts yelling at Dennis, saying that he was the one who asked her to make it look real. Sally quickly understands that her brother was heavily involved in child trafficking and tells Claire the whole plan: he and her sister would arrive with the girl and the money, and Sally would pay the money, and then Claire and her son's partner would be stealing Girls too while Dennis pretended to be on Sally's side. In fact, Dennis is now moving into Claire's minivan with Leila, and Sally can only helplessly follow the vehicle. But just as they are about to drive away, Sally's friends from her trucking group show up with their big trucks and block all the truck's escape routes. Dennis escapes and then tries to convince his sister that selling the girls would bring them lots of money to live an easy life with, but an angry Sally simply points her gun at him. Dennis asks what Leila can give Sally, what he can't, and what he owes the girl, to which Leila herself replies that she owes him nothing. Sally eventually lets her brother live and she and her friends arrest him. The next morning, Gerick and his partner arrive at the scene when Sally appears to have contacted him and arrest the man and Claire and rescue the other girls. However, Leila stays with Sally and the two go happily as a new family.
While there is little that is new or unique to Paradise Highway plot-wise, there are certain moments in the film that have their due impact. The vision of a female trucker as the protagonist and her ever-helpful friends, all of whom are also women, is a cute oddity, as the truck stops and rest stops here are seen as more of a hazard or unnecessary hassle than a safe of sorts. shelter. which most male truckers in movies think they are. Sally, an experienced and badass trucker, gets attacked by a drunk mascot at one of these stops, so it's easy to see what those places would do to Leila. The film doesn't leave any room for diluting the content or euphemisms and yet it's not bloody, which is to be appreciated.
Paradise Highway is a 2022 thriller drama written and directed by Anna Gutto.
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