Hit The Road: Review

Hit The Road: Review

Hit the Road is why your friends can’t stand arthouse movies. By Andrew Prosser.

Let it not be said that Panah Panahi’s debut as a writer-director is not an impressive one. His skillfully shot tale of a family’s journey to the border as their eldest son flees Iran, for many viewers, strikes all the right notes. If you’re currently reading about it on a film review website, you might even be one of them (thanks, by the way). Still, to the friend/family member/significant other/captive you twisted the arm of to get to watch another one of your “artsy movies,” the film hands few favors.

Much of the action (if it can be called that) takes place within the family’s minivan, which, as the film wears on, can start to feel claustrophobic, and worse, dull. A generous viewer would say that Panahi doesn’t talk down to his viewers, that he has faith in their ability to see the larger picture, even if the details are elusive. On the other hand, it isn’t unfair to say the film is ambiguous to the point of frustration, that the filmmaker is too precious with what precious little plot he has to dispense.

Our travelers are forever looking over their shoulders, in fear of being found out by the nefarious enemies they see lurking in every shadow and dare not even name, but that fear, the precautions they take – throwing out the youngest child’s cell phone despite his fervent objections, never addressing their actual task at hand, almost if they were suspicious the car itself might be bugged – never amount to anything.

Panahi isn’t interested in high-speed car chases and daring escapes, opting to delve instead into the mental and emotional toll of such a journey, and to his credit, he accomplishes that well. Masterfully understated performances by the film’s leads pull the whole thing together, even when Panahi takes what might be his biggest filmmaking swing by shooting the emotional climax of the piece in one ultra-wide shot of a hillside, reducing mother, father, and sons to the size of ants, leaving us only to speculate about the looks of dread and despair which must surely be on their faces.

Here, as always, Panahi deals in shadows, and it’s equal parts stunning and frustrating. All told, for fans of arthouse cinema,

Hit the Road is well worth its relatively short ninety-three-minute run time, but it won’t be winning any new converts.

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