The Movie Waffler New to VOD/MUBI - HIT THE ROAD | The Movie Waffler


hit the road review
A family bonds on a lengthy road trip.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Panah Panahi

Starring: Hasan Majuni, Pantea Panahiha, Rayan Sarlak, Amin Simiar

hit the road poster

Can you think of anything worse than an extended cross country car journey in the searing heat with your nearest and dearest? For injury to insult, throw in an unwell dog and an ailing patriarch, too. Unimaginable misery? Courtesy of Panah Panahi’s feature length comedy/drama debut, Hit the Road, the dreadful concept has been authentically realised in all its nerve picking discomfort. Upon the mysterious journey which this family - comprised of Mom (Pantea Panahiha), Dad (Hasan Majuni), Little Brother (Rayan Sarlak) and taciturn Big Brother (Amin Similar) - are embarking on there are no particular blow ups, instead just the perfectly captured irritability of travelling in enclosed spaces, of being neither here nor there, with the conversation having run out miles back and only the dread anticipation of arrival to occupy the mind.

hit the road review

Yet, as the film continues, perhaps there is a rationale for the pointed silences, held in slightly-too-long lingering shots, which punctuate the otherwise indie-ish comedy tone of Hit the Road. As implied by the nominal nature of the cast list, this is a film which explicates familial links, and it eventually transpires that the unit are rushing to the Turkish border to smuggle Big Brother out of the country, for reasons which are vague but have implications of persecution. Hence the all-inclusive population of the car, sick animal and all. We are never privy to the specifics of Big Brother’s exodus, as writer/director Panahi recognises this is an irrelevance: Big Brother could be any young Iranian man or woman seeking asylum, suffering the same regime which has kept Dad under house arrest for years. The getaway is a factor of life, which the film underlines by the gentle, quotidian nature of both the journey and the film.

hit the road review

The family do bicker, and it is hot (the way in which Hit the Road captures the oppressive warmth of a car with janky A/C is quite something), but there are also moments of lovingly observed joy: Little Brother (Sarlak could be the film’s MVP, although your mileage may vary with this kid, being a hyperactive child prone to outbursts and misplaced excitements) plays the piano drawn on Dad’s cast, there are family singalongs (perhaps the only palatable aspect of long car journeys, after all). All of which make the manifestations of men in burlap masks, the wide-angle framing of the car against the devastatingly barren landscape, even more insidious...

hit the road review

The film it most reminded me of was that overrated Little Miss Sunshine, the indie everyone went nuts over when such distinctions between mainstream and independent cinema still existed (i.e., when people still went to the movies to see smaller films). But unlike that interminably smug little film, Hit the Road has a winning naturalism, a genuine sense of emotion and dignity. This is chiefly communicated by the wonderful Pantea Panahiha, whose matriarch is beautiful and stoic, driving the car and holding the disparate males of the family together as she internally comes to terms with soon losing one of them. The actor is, of course, the director’s own mother, giving Hit the Road a bittersweet authenticity that travels beyond the narrative.

Hit the Road is on UK/ROI VOD now and MUBI UK from October 20th.

2022 movie reviews