This film is surely one of the funniest of the year so far, but it also comes with a very sad backdrop. Hit The Road is directed by Panah Panahi, son of the Iranian director Jafar Panahi, who was sentenced to six months in prison recently for criticising his nation’s government. The fact of his incarceration lends this story of escape a bitter sense of reality.
A family is journeying to the northern border of Iran. The bossy mother (Pantea Panahiha) tries to keep everyone entertained. Her husband (Hasan Majuni) props his broken leg in between the front seats, putting the world to rights. Their elder son (Amin Simiar) seems tense as he drives, the polar opposite to their 8-year-old son (Rayan Sarlak), who’s told they’re travelling to a wedding.
Their real reason for travelling is unknown, but as the journey progresses it becomes ever more treacherous. Hit The Road is reminiscent of Little Miss Sunshine, albeit with higher stakes. The family bicker hilariously as they desperately evade the constant threat of outside attention. They encounter many people on the road from concerned fellow drivers to a Lance Armstrong worshipping cyclist.
The cast exhibits incredible chemistry. The most powerful symbol of how tough things can get for families like these is Jessy, who should have been put to sleep days ago. The inevitability of his fate seems to mirror the uncertainty of their own. It’s a powerful message, wrapped delicately.
Hit The Road’s story echoes the situation of refugees across the world, fleeing home and anxiously trying to avoid being caught by authorities. Great art can put complex politics to human terms we can all relate to, and in this sense, Panahi has created a triumph.
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