I went to see Iranian film Hit the Road in the summer, but things got in the way and I never wrote it up.

This is a critically acclaimed road movie, written and directed by Panah Panahi (the son of director and political prisoner Jafar Panahi), and released in 2021, which features a loving, eccentric family as they make their way across country. (Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian has interestingly noted that an entirely new genre has effectively evolved in Iranian cinema, comprising films “shot semi-covertly in a car”, as a tactic to avoid state interference.)

The family is made up of two parents, chain-smoking father Kosro (played by Hassan Madjooni, and nursing a broken leg), the mother (played by Pantea Panahiha), adult, taciturn son Farid (Amin Simiar), his mischievous, much younger brother (played by Rayan Sarlak) and their sick dog. The success of Sarlak’s naturalistic performance really stands out, given his young age.

The family tease each other and wind each other up, and although there are distinct moments of humour as the journey proceeds in its haphazard way, there is a huge amount of tenderness and barely contained sadness too. It isn’t until later that we realise the objective of the road trip: the family are engaged in a dangerous and heart-breaking mission to smuggle their eldest son out of Iran, via Turkey.

Along the way, there are amazing shots of the changing Iranian landscape: big skies, vast wheat fields, dramatic mountains, deep fog, and sand. This was a really powerful movie (and is available now on streaming services such as Amazon Prime).

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