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Parents' Guide to

Paradise Highway

By Brian Costello, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Clichéd child trafficking drama has violence, language.

Movie R 2022 115 minutes
Paradise Highway Movie Poster

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This is a potentially powerful and moving true crime drama centered on child trafficking that's marred by true crime drama clichés, uneven pacing, and at least one miscast lead. Paradise Highway stars Juliette Binoche as Sally, a trucker who grew up in rural Arkansas who comes across as French Canadian, which doesn't really make sense. Her soon-to-be-paroled brother Dennis, played by Frank Grillo, doesn't really sound like someone from the rural South either. When Sally is tricked into transporting a 10-year-old girl named Leila (played by Hala Finley in one of the better performances), a murder shortly after attracts the attention of a retired FBI agent and an FBI agent fresh out of Yale.

The grouchy-retired-agent-paired-with-the-rookie -academic-agent opposite dynamic quickly grows stale after the first five times the grouch agent (played by Morgan Freeman) calls his partner by the inevitable "Yale" nickname. (Is it asking too much to have a cop-centered movie in which the partners are best buds with much in common, thus finding other sources of conflict?) These conventions and clichés dilute the more powerful moments of the movie, and those center on the crisis of child trafficking. The movie tries to do a lot with these characters -- so much so that some aspects to them come across as not fully developed, such as Sally's past life and present life as a trucker -- and the exchange between her and Freeman's character adds nothing but more clichés. In spite of all of this, there's still enough to the story and the powerful sense of what's at stake to make it reasonably resonant and enjoyable, but there's the lingering feeling that this should have been better than it is.

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