In this era of big spectacle and cinematic universes it’s amazing how simple making a great piece of cinema can actually be. In his feature film debut Hit the Road, writer/director Panah Panahi has taken the road trip movie and crafted a moving, touching, funny family drama that anyone should be able to relate with. It’s as close to a masterpiece as I’ve seen in a long time and the more I’ve thought about it the more it resonates with me.
The film centers on a family traveling through the beautiful Iranian countryside (seriously this movie makes you wish you could go visit Iran and just drive. Gorgeous). It is a typical crammed in suv but the occupants don’t seem to be on a vacation. In fact, they are racing to get across the border into Turkey, having left their hometown in a rush to try and smuggle Big Brother played by Amin Simiar out of the country.
Big Brother obviously has a great deal of anxiety given his situation but this is countered by the joyousness of Little Brother played by the adorable Rayan Sarlak. He steals the movie but he is also an important element providing laughter and joy into an otherwise tense film. Pantea Panahiha is the ideal Mother trying to keep her family together and both her sons hopeful but the fear behind her eyes is ever-present.
Then we have Hassan Madjooni as the Father who is struggling in the backseat with a fully-cast broken leg. It itches and it’s hot and miserable. He tries his best to be a team player but it’s obvious it is a tough situation to be in.
But the real star of Hit the Road is the script. Panahi has done such a great job crafting a family we care about, a story that surprises and dialogue that touches on so many important modern issues. It’s a film the entire family can watch together and be entertained and edified. I’m not sure what the roll-out is going to be but I can’t recommend it more highly. A moving family story you won’t soon forget and if there is any justice we’ll hear about it come awards season.
9.5 out of 10
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