Hit The Road review — Existential road comedy pulls out all the stops

Original title: Jaddeh Khaki | Written and Directed by Panah Panahi | 93 min | ▲▲▲▲△| Carbon Arc Cinema 

Panah Panahi is the son of legendary Iranian director Jafar Panahi, and evidenced by the younger Panahi’s debut the filmmaking reel doesn’t fall far from the projector — though there’s something wonderfully askew in the mix with Panahi Jr.  His family comedy is shot through with broader, more profound themes than what might be immediately apparent.

Imagine an Iranian take on Little Miss Sunshine and you’re at the starting gate: we’ve got a road trip into the badlands with an older couple (Pantea Panahiha and Hasan Majuni), an adult son (Amin Simiar) who’s driving and mostly silent, and an eight-or-so-years-old son (Rayan Sarlak, a force of nature) who is not mostly silent — quite the opposite. He’s a little demon in the family minivan — borrowed, they say — as they travel to an uncertain destination.

The adults have purportedly left their cells behind and are concerned about being followed. They knock a cyclist down who lectures them on honesty and transgression while obviously cheating in a race by taking a ride with the family. There’s a lot of stops to pee.

We get hints of why they’re out here, where they’re going to and what they might be running from. Are they dead? Is this a comedic purgatory?

Oh, and speaking of death, there’s a stray dog along for the ride, Jessy, who may be dying and seems to be the only one in the van who has a name anyone uses on the regular.

Beyond the wry humour and a surprising number of references to movies — including 2001: A Space Odyssey and Batman Begins — it’s also a gorgeous-looking picture.  In moments it makes a solid argument for the beauty of the Iranian landscape — something I’ve been less convinced of in other Iranian films.

But mostly it’s a film of astonishing and undeniable abutment of contrasts: humour and grief, the past and the future, silence and sound, and a family’s love for a child — wanting to hold onto him but knowing that letting him depart will keep him safe.

And music. Just wait until it all becomes a musical about love and loss. It’s a celebration.

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.