My rating: 9/10
Since it’s initial premiere release at the Cannes Film Festival on May 18th of this year, I had heard a huge amount of positive reviews and feedback on the Australian dystopian film. Everywhere I looked on social media contained high praise to do with the acting by Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson. I can now fully confirm that these praises are all well deserved because when I saw it last night….I thought it was absolutely fantastic! Bleak is an understatement, but I guess that is the whole premise of the film – to get you to understand the struggles in a post-global economic collapse.
SETTING: “10 years after a global economic collapse, people from many different races have moved to Australia and the American Dollar is the most common currency.”
Directed by David Michod (of Animal Kingdom), the film stars renowned Australian actor Guy Pearce and the incredibly versatile Robert Pattinson in a ‘contemporary western’ where they all appear grimed up and rather dry looking, which funnily enough I honestly felt myself after seeing it.
Plot Summary (SPOILERS!!):
The film takes you on a grim journey following Eric (played by Pearce – whose history you learn as the film progresses) who does whatever it takes to get his beloved car back (though at first we don’t really know why it is so important to him) after it is stolen by three other travellers (played by David Field, Tawanda Manyimo and Scoot McNairy) who like his better (obviously) but don’t know of it’s value to him.
On his path to finding the stolen car, he comes across ‘Rey’ who is alone and very badly injured and tries to get information out of him about whether he had seen three men in a car (one of whom is ‘Rey’s’ brother), but to which he is too weak to answer- and collapses. With the help of directions from a nearby goods seller, Eric then drives ‘Rey’ to a Doctor (Susan Prior) who lives in the mountains accompanied by an armed male. She fixes up ‘Rey’, and as this is being carried out, Eric feels he is well enough to answer his questions and points a gun at him. Just as he is about to push the interrogation further, a buzzer is sounded which indicates the arrival of a vehicle over the horizon. Eric then tells the Doctor to arm herself and prepares to kill whoever it is – resulting in one of the drivers and passenger being shot. From here Eric and ‘Rey’ leave and stay at a motel where during their stay ‘Rey’ accidentally shoots the motel owners young daughter, having mistaken her for someone inside the army truck that had passed slowly by – ‘Rey’ is now haunted by his actions and confesses to Eric.
Next, when camping near a mine, Eric is arrested by a soldier who is killed by ‘Rey’ who is excited by what he has done – hoping to be praised for how well he did. The two then move onto the town where the gang who stole the car are staying. It is here they find Eric’s car parked outside oe of the houses and they break in. After the men are found sleeping in some of the bed rooms, ‘Rey’ argues with his brother Henry over having left him for dead at the beginning of the film. As a result, it gets out of hand and Henry shoots ‘Rey’ in the neck when the shot aimed at him missed.
After seeing this happen, Eric shoots the two other men and Henry, then drags all four bodies out to be burned before leaving with his recovered car. This event leads to the revealing of why Eric is ‘obsessed’ with getting his car back – the dead Dog inside the boot.
At the end you see Eric prepare to give the Dog a dignified burial.
I was not sure what to expect from this film, but I am proud to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. The lead performances by both Pearce and Pattinson were top notch and so I am very happy that they have it premiered in Cannes – the prestigious film festival. I applaud David Michod because of his decisions on where to shoot, choosing the best cast, and the whole cinematographic element made for captivating viewing. Since it was shot entirely in the Australian outback, this was perfect for displaying the isolated environment; enabling the audience to get a real feel of the bleakness of the world/situation at that moment in time.
The on screen chemistry between the two characters is what made the film in my opinion, because what felt like a father-son relationship was made possible due to the convincing portrayal of the two very polar roles.
- Eric: a strong individual, set on finishing what he was out to do, (though it sounds like a minor issue) bury his dead Dog to give a sense of finality within a world where nobody takes notice any more of any bad things that happen.
- Rey: a perhaps simple-minded American man who is constantly seeking approval, and after we learn about his background of bullying, we learn why he is always looking for interest and praise from Eric.
The film as a whole has many layers to it. If you analyse it, you will understand why things happen the way they do, etc. There are many great theories. Think of it as a visual literature novel.
‘The Rover’ completely displays the actors full acting capabilities, and these are very strong. I have always been a fan of Robert Pattinson, and was excited to see him in this very different and complex role. I bow down to you sir. I also say the same for Guy Pearce, whose work I have loved over the years.
Its soundtrack too is another ingredient that makes the film how it is – another signature move on Michod’s part. For example, Keri Hilson’s ‘Pretty Girl Rock’ is an example of what may come across as slightly random, but in fact oddly fits very well with the scene. Within this scene, ‘Rey’ is sitting alone in the car in pitch black singing along to the song. However, when you learn about his past, you understand that this type of music is what he liked to hear before the collapse happened.
As an Australian produced film, I very much love these types of films because it is not your typical Hollywood production with over the top graphics, but gives the impression of being more genuine, and in this case, a story you could perhaps relate to.
I recommend this to those who want to see something unlike what you would have expected from the cast in question.
Press Junket Interview: