Juliette Binoche hopes 'Paradise Highway' will educate an audience on trafficking - Albuquerque Journal

Juliette Binoche hopes ‘Paradise Highway’ will educate an audience on trafficking

Juliette Binoche as Sally in the film, “Paradise Highway.” (Nick Burchell/Lionsgate)

Juliette Binoche is always attracted to roles that are not only heavy, but convey a message.

The Oscar winner’s latest film, “Paradise Highway,” hits select theaters and on-demand on Friday, July 29.

She not only wanted to bring the film’s subject matter to life, and she wanted to work with director Anna Gutto.

“The more we talk about children sex trafficking the better,” Binoche says during an interview from her home in France. “I wanted to support (Anna) doing this film.”

Binoche and Morgan Freeman lead the thriller set in the trucking industry and its seamy underbelly of human trafficking.

To save the life of her brother, played by Frank Grillo, Sally, played by Binoche, a truck driver, reluctantly agrees to smuggle illicit cargo – a girl named Leila, played by Hala Finley.

As Sally and Leila begin a danger-fraught journey across state lines, a dogged FBI operative, played by Freeman, sets out on their trail, determined to do whatever it takes to terminate a human-trafficking operation – and bring Sally and Leila to safety.

Binoche was drawn to Gutto’s script because there’s heart to it.

“The film is really truthful,” Binoche says.

Morgan Freeman as Gerick and Cameron Monaghan as Special Agent Finley Sterling in “Paradise Highway.” (Nick Burchell/Lionsgate)

Binoche also enjoyed the complexity of Sally life.

“(Sally) is coming from a difficult childhood and was separated from her brother as he got involved with drugs,” she says. “She’s matched with him emotionally and he’s her only family. She’s having to learn to separate from the trauma in her childhood and relationship.”

Binoche says as Sally and Leila create a bond, it begins to add another layer to the story.

“Sally is choosing heart more than blood,” she says. “It wasn’t easy to make that decision. Sally is in a state of transformation through the film. Sally sees Leila as a mirror. They’ve had traumatic childhoods and are dealing with them.”

Binoche says the production filmed in Mississippi and the conditions were rough because it was taking place during the pandemic.

She also had to learn how to drive a semitruck.

“I enjoyed it,” she says. “At first I wondered how I was going to drive. Going up is easier than going down. I learned to pass the gears without using the feet. I wanted to take the test to pass my CDL. It meant I would have to take more time.”

Because Sally was a truck driver, Binoche also got comfortable with reading maps.

“I took the real maps and began drawing on the maps,” she says. “We shot the film in five weeks and didn’t shoot it in a chronological way. Though the filming was quick, we never lost the passion for the project or the story.”

Binoche hopes that the film will educate an audience on child sex trafficking.

“You see that it can happen everywhere,” she says. “It’s for us as human beings to see and make sure that it doesn’t happen. We need to speak with children about what can happen. I also want to show how in the trucking world it’s a world full of males. It wasn’t exactly easy for women to start truck driving. A lot of women are being raped on the road and we don’t talk about it. Sally was able to have a group of women drivers who looked out for each other.”

SEND ME YOUR TIPS: If you know of a movie filming in the state, or are curious about one, email film@ABQjournal.com. Follow me on Twitter @agomezART.

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