When a drifter is slowly working his way towards home, he finds himself without money. He ends up finding a job that doesn't pay much, but it will do for now. While working he gets to know another young man who started a month earlier, and the two eventually bond. What follows is a story of drifters trying to move on.
Blake Eckard left a much bigger impression on me with his later films "Sinner Come Home" and "Bubbe Moon Face" than this one did, but through all three movies he has shown what his strongest skill truly is. In "Backroad Blues" we get his future style at its most primal and simple, as it really comes down to the essentials.
There is not much to the story. It's about a drifter - a real joker, but who seems to be a nice guy in heart. He doesn't care about much, and at this point in time he finds himself piss poor, lifting by the side of the road in hopes that whoever picks him up has a job for him. He runs into another young man like himself, and it just so happens that his employer might have a spot open for our drifter. And he does in fact get the job. While working, he becomes closer to the guy who helped him, though it's apparent that they both have some baggage with them. Soon it's time for them to both get moving for a better job.
The main problem with "Backroad Blues" is that not much happens. This is also intentional, and not a wrong in itself. But unlike the later movies by Blake Eckard, I couldn't really find much to like in our main character. He came off as self-centered and too much of a joker, even though there are times where we see he might not be all that. We care much more about the guy he ends up meeting, but it never blossoms beyond that. The movie is dependent on realism and about the lives of some people in America, I get that, and it's not a terrible portrayal, but I would've appreciated a few more turns and a bit more drama.
Luckily, even though not much happens and it's about 90 min long, it doesn't really bore you. Perhaps because they really managed to capture something we can relate to, or perhaps it's because of the lovely green landscape they were surrounded in - it really looked inviting (as I watched this in a snow-drowned Sweden).
"Backroad Blues" will be a great watch to some, but I think the general opinion would be that some drama is missing. It's fine that we prefer the other guy over the lead, but it just doesn't grow into an interesting movie. Unlike "Sinner Come Home" and "Bubbe Moon Face", two movies that really showed a simpler side of America in realistic manner, with some actually intense drama in it, "Backroad Blues" is a movie that really just "is what it is". Watch this movie if you liked his later efforts and want to see what he did earlier on. I have no idea if I will ever see the much earlier "A Simple Midwest Story", but if I do then I'm sure I can find some recognizable traits there too!