A beautifully observed road trip movie with heartbreak at its centre, Hit The Road – the debut feature film of director Panah Panahi – resonates deeply. The son of Iranian auteur filmmaker Jafar Panahi finds his own voice and trajectory through the stillness, chaos and metaphorical observation of this vibrant family.
Essentially a four-hander (five if you count the ill dog, Jessy), the film follows a mother, father and their two sons as they take a journey, possibly plagued with danger. Essentially, they are transporting elder son, 20-year-old Farid (Amin Simiar) to the border, where it seems he will be leaving the country and his family, quite possibly forever. The ebb and flow of the emotional turmoil this is placing on the family is brilliantly captured in the claustrophobic environs of the car and their occasional awkward stops.
The father, Hassan Madjooni, is an irascible presence, bearded and bearlike with a leg in a cast he hobbles around. Younger son (Ryan Sarlak) is fantastic: a ball of energy and pop culture references, unstoppable in his enthusiasm and demands, and a brilliantly believable child performance. And in the centre of it all is Pantea Panahiha, the mother, aware her family is about to change irrevocably.
Scenes are long and masterful. A chat over an apple between father and son by a river; a long shot with the family tiny in frame with mountains looming in the distance; a misty sheepskin-masked motorcyclist approaching through the mist; a son resting on his father, who’s cocooned in a sleeping bag. The camera lingers on the performers, allowing us to enter their thought processes – particularly well judged when Panahiha comes to terms with their current plight. Subtext is all. There are also leaps into song: in the car, the family sing along to tunes whose lyrics echo their plight, before an emotional final song lipsynched by Sarlak in a dust sea.
The performances are all fantastic, moving from comedy to tragedy effortlessly; this family is a tight-knit, loving unit you can’t help but root for. Rich, rewarding and moving with an unspoken political dimension, Hit The Road has a subtle pedal on the film’s emotional accelerator throughout.
Dir: Panah Panahi (12A, 94 mins)
Hit The Road is out now in cinemas
words KEIRON SELF
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