Review by Dan Skip Allen
Although a lot of road trip movies take place in the United States, it's a genre that has roots all over the world. The Trip series takes place in Europe and is a very successful franchise, but most international road movies are quaint. Panah Panahi's Hit the Road takes place in Iran and offers a unique version of the genre.
When the film picks up, a family of four and their dog are on a road trip across the Iranian countryside to deliver one of its company to a place unknown when. As the film progresses, we find out that one of them is leaving for good. Using this method of telling the story is very effective for the viewer to learn about these people, their motivations and relationships, and so forth.
The four main characters are a rambunctious little boy who continuously talks and asks questions (like children tend to do), a father who has a broken leg, a mother just trying to make the most of the situation she's in, and a second son wishing he were anywhere else besides this car.
The film gradually gets to why these four people and their dog are traveling across the Iranian countryside. And it's a good reason, but it's still a bit anticlimactic. Other people may be happy with the ending of the story, but I was a bit let down by it.
The film looked very good from the perspective of the car. When we weren't watching the four main characters, we got a lot of the Iranian deserts, hills, and various towns and way stations these people stopped off at, as well as the interesting people they met along the way. All road trip pictures have these aspects, and they need to work, or the picture can be long and tedious. This film tended to be the latter when it got away from the four main characters.
Hit the Road did a good job focusing primarily on the relationships and motivations of the four main characters and their dog in the car. That was the heart of the film. These various conversations and discussions were interesting to me. When the film got away from these people, it became boring even though I know the director Panahi tried to break up the monotony. The film looked beautiful, and it got to say something about this culture I didn't know.
Hit the Road hits theaters on April 22.