Though when the kid first makes this intense quip, we aren’t quite acquainted with the rascal’s irresistibly witty ways yet, a disposition that often injects the picture with moments of comic relief that runs parallel to the movie’s melancholy. And Panahi is so precise behind the camera that his inspired compositions of the family inside the car—somehow, both spacious and claustrophobic—as well as the languorous rays of sun that shoot their way into the confinement dreamily, don’t necessarily challenge the little one’s otherworldly remark, very much on purpose. That being said, you may be forgiven to think that you’re in the presence of a mystic, spiritual or even supernatural “Little Miss Sunshine” for a second there, one that is set on the road to the Pearly Gates.
But Panahi is also quick to gracefully steer you back into reality. No, no one is dead amongst the family of four—also including Hassan Madjooni’s wisely deadpan Dad with a broken, painfully itchy leg in a cast and the pensive, twentysomething Big Brother, played by Amin Simiar. They are just in somewhat of a disorienting rush—as we find out in doses, the quartet is making a dash for the Turkish border to smuggle the older son out of the country for reasons Panahi smartly leaves mostly unexplained, a perceptive decision that propels the alluring aura of secrecy in “Hit the Road.”
In strictly speculative terms, the filmmaker’s choice to leave things unsaid might have something to do with the Panahi name. Yes, Panah is the son of the legendary Iranian auteur Jafar Panahi, who is still barred from filmmaking and departing Iran due to the regime’s enraging 2010 ruling that found J. Panahi guilty of spreading anti-government propaganda. (Thankfully, that didn’t stop him from making unofficial movies without permits, like masterpieces “This Is Not A Film” and “Taxi.”) In that regard, it might very well be in a subconsciously protective spirit that his son Panah leaves story’s political facets obscure, knowing what buttons he can and cannot push, what he can and cannot spell out. But that doesn’t mean “Hit The Road” is a coy version of something that could have been superior if it were more obvious. Far from it. By concealing some of the nitty-gritty, Panahi makes an even more fiercely political point throughout “Hit The Road.” Here, the details don’t matter as much as their heartbreaking consequences: the irreversibly burdened families unfairly torn away from their loved ones, and a society that carries those scars.
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