Jackie (Kate Dickie) looks a bit like Chrissie Hynde in a kind of homely/sexy way. She sits gazing into a bank of video monitors. For her job, she watches, godlike, all the people who pass by the myriad of video cameras planted all about Glasgow. If trouble arises, she makes a call and someone (hopefully) shows up on the scene. It seems like the perfect job for her, hovering over other people's lives without the slightest interest in her own. She appears lost, or hollow, and the director Andrea Arnold pulls off the admirable task of making her interesting without immediately giving away her secrets. When those secrets finally come out, they do so in such a way that avoids the obvious "Shyamalan twist." Refreshingly, Red Road is a movie about a person and not a gimmick.
The catalyst comes when Jackie thinks she sees a familiar face in the monitors. We get a flicker of recognition and nothing more. We don't know if the man is a lover, a killer or even whether the man would recognize Jackie if he saw her. After work, Jackie begins to haunt the dingy neighborhood in which the man was sighted. Graffiti sprayed onto crumbling walls is more prevalent than actual intact, livable structures, and the inhabitants seem to be in a perpetual bad mood. After hanging out in a couple of sleazy cafes and bars, she manages to slip into a party at the man's apartment. He notices her and asks her to dance. He begins seducing her and she allows herself to be seduced. Or does she? It would be a disservice to continue any further with the plot, even though only part of the movie's pleasures lies in its discovery.