Hit The Highway Assessment

Early on in Hit The Highway, the household tries to have a “last-gasp occasion” of their automobile, with singing and dancing. The hyperactive youthful brother — brilliantly performed by tiny newcomer Rayan Sarlak — perceptively picks up on this phrase. “In motion pictures, after they say ‘last-gasp’, one thing unhealthy occurs,” he says. His mom tries to reassure him. However Hit The Highway is all about last-gasps: the household are on what seems to be a quietly determined journey, a touch for the border of Iran, a guarded implication of the refugee expertise. “Final-gasp occasion”, then, is a phrase that appears to hit the tone of this surprisingly unhappy, gently elegiac, off-guardedly humorous movie.

This can be a hell of a debut from director Panah Panahi, and it’s exhausting to not learn into the real-life circumstances of his life: his father is acclaimed filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who received the Cannes Caméra d’Or in 1995 for The White Balloon, and had his 2011 documentary This Is Not A Movie smuggled overseas on a USB drive hidden in a cake, whereas below home arrest. He comes not simply from a proud filmmaking lineage, however a household pressured to confront an oppressive, intolerant regime.

Why this specific fictional household take this street journey is one thing by no means explicitly revealed, however we are able to surmise a lot, in small, fraught moments — a SIM card being destroyed, a automobile seemingly on their tail. There’s hazard and stress lurking in every single place, however the temper is stored largely gentle, the older characters eager to guard the innocence of the youthful son; fantastically pitched performances from Iranian veterans Pantea Panahiha and Hasan Majuni, because the mother and father, change fluidly from wit to whispered fear.

It is a surprisingly romantic expertise, flush with poetic visible thrives.

That tragi-comic tone is juggled skilfully, particularly with the youthful son’s stressed power (there may be, for instance, an out-of-nowhere reference to Batman Begins). It has the desert-dry wit of Center Japanese filmmakers like Abbas Kiarostami or Elia Suleiman, the comedy revealing layers of lived-in household dynamics: the son calls his mom “expensive woman”, the daddy calls the son “little fart”. They bicker affectionately, and sing unhappy, aching pre-Revolution songs about love and longing.

It’s a surprisingly romantic expertise. Iran’s rugged, dramatic panorama flashes previous the automobile home windows, flush with poetic visible thrives — a peloton of cyclists whizzing within the background of a reflective dialog; a crimson disposable chair being dragged by means of a subject of wheat by a sickly canine. One key climactic scene is performed completely in an excessive vast shot, the household silhouetted on a far horizon. Panahi’s digital camera is tender and empathetic, however retains its distance too, sustaining an enigmatic high quality that feels in line with a household filled with secrets and techniques.

The ultimate act considerably loses a few of that early energetic cost, when the household reaches the border and their story finds a extra melodramatic finish — however it by no means loses give attention to its characters, or what they have to endure. A deeply stirring remaining shot completes the impact. Hell of a final gasp.

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