In the sea of stupid and well-worn folk sayings, there is one that says the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but in the case of Iranian filmmaker Panah Panahi, it turned out to be very accurate. Panah’s father is the well-known Iranian filmmaker and dissident Jafar Panahi, one of the leading filmmakers from this Asian country of the 21st century, who was repeatedly convicted for criticizing the regime there, was banned from making films and was banned from leaving the country. Already with his debut film, Panah shows that if he manages to stay out of prison, he could surpass his famous father because “Hit the Road” is at the same time so simple, yet so wonderful, deep, smart, touching and layered.
The road movie may be a typical offshoot of American cinema, but the legendary Abbas Kiarostami in his masterpiece “The Taste of Cherry” showed what a road movie looks like in the Iranian way. He also shot the older Panahi road guerilla film “Taxi Tehran” in which he films himself while driving a taxi in the capital because he is banned from making films. But Panah Panahi’s first film brings a completely new meaning to the road film and we follow this seemingly typical family as they travel somewhere. Where they are traveling to is not at all clear to us at first, but over time we slowly begin to get some ideas of what could be happening and where they are going. The jeep they borrowed is driven by the older son (Amin Simiar), a taciturn guy in his late twenties or early thirties. Next to him sits his already graying mother (Pantea Panahiha), and she is constantly arguing with her husband (Hasan Majuni), a fat, bearded guy in his fifties who sits in the back because his leg is in a cast.
Their younger son travels with them, a hyperactive eight-year-old boy with thick black hair and black eyes who is fantastic and one of the best child characters I’ve seen on film lately. He is always fooling around like kids his age do, but he is a bright kid who often annoys his parents, primarily his old father, with various questions, and there is also an old dog in the car, Jessy, who apparently has problems with his prostate, so they have to stop all the time to the old half-breed could make it easier. We do not know the reason for their journey to the north. It is certainly not a short-term departure of the older son from the country to get married, as they told the younger son, who does not really believe in that story, and that the reason could be more serious, we understand when the mother at one point starts to panic because she thinks someone is following them.
Another reason for extreme curiosity is that the agreement was that no one is allowed to carry a cell phone, so the mother starts to panic again when she realizes that the boy coldly brought his cell phone. Then we start to think if all of them or one of them is in trouble with the law or maybe it is a family of some kind of criminals, but by the end it will all slowly start to fall into place. Although “Hit the Road” is nominally a drama, it is a film that exudes charm, spirit and even humor, and Panahi masterfully made a film about how to try to hide and camouflage from an eight-year-old child what is really happening and the real reasons for going on a trip .
Although all the adults try to stick to the story and hide from the boy that something serious is happening that could have serious consequences for him, the little one somehow subconsciously understands that the situation they are in is not normal. And that they don’t actually tell him why and where they are traveling. “Hit the Road” is a film that delights with its landscapes, fantastic photography and the authenticity of the characters you meet along the way, but I was most fascinated by the direction of young Panahi. Although this is his first film (well, he’s not exactly a slob and he was 37 years old when “Hit the Road” premiered in Cannes), he so subtly and stylishly presents this touching and charming, bitter-sweet story that hides numerous surprises.