Film of the Month: Hit the Road
Stars: Pantea Panahiha, Rayan Sarlak, Hasan Madjooni, Barham Ark, Amin Simiar
This fantastic debut from writer-director Panahi, son of Iranian auteur Jafar Panahi, is a melancholy but zestful road movie that follows a family’s eventful car journey to mountainous North Iran. They are lynchpin mum (Panahiha), grumpy father (Madjooni) whose plaster cast-encased right leg juts between the two front seats, the quiet elder son (Simiar) and cheeky hyperactive six-year-old (Sarlak) appropriately nicknamed Monkey the Second by her father. In the rear is the ageing family dog. The first half almost plays like a much less affected Iranian take on ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ as the family bicker and joke. Then midway, as the family rendezvous with a cowled motorbike messenger and the reasons for their journey become clear, the picture turns into something far more stirring and profound. Iranian cinema can sometimes incline toward the headily allegorical, but Panahi’s freewheeling approach, replete with surreal flourishes, amusing and affectionate character rapport, and a zippy soundtrack of Iranian 70s pop hits, keeps the story buoyant. All of the cast are entirely relatable but special mention to Rayan Sarlak who is wonderful as the livewire youngest son. The naturalistic dialogue evidences Panahi’s debt to his father, while Amin Jafari’s inquisitive and attentive camerawork beautifully complements the performances.