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A Hard Road To Travel…

Joseph Strick’s undersung trucker tale Road Movie recently appeared on our screens, kick starting our Road Movies season. To celebrate, we look how the film longs for hope (but finds chaos) on the open road….

The three leads in Joseph Strick’s hypnotic car classic Road Movie are constantly on the move. Partly it’s due to their line of work, Hank (Barry Bostwick) and Gil (Robert Drivas) are down-on-their-luck truckers, Janice (Regina Baff) a street-wise hooker who hitches a ride – but mainly it’s down to their social status or lack thereof. With no place to call their own, Strick’s trio hit the road in pursuit of better things. One big load is all they need to bag a paycheque and find themselves on easy street, but like that American Dream motif that’s so often intertwined with this concrete-clad genre, it remains constantly just out of reach.

It’s not something that goes unnoticed either, both off-screen and on. Our guide through the American highway system is Hank, a largely unlikable and embittered remnant who spits venom and isn’t above knocking women around if he feels they’re not giving him the respect he deserves yet has hardly earned. By comparison his cabin companion Gil is sunshine and roses, no saint but happy to be working and keen to find solutions to the constant stream of problems that seem to be stalking them across American midwest. For the most part, these problems can be traced back to Janice, a lot-lizard with doe-eyes, a dark past and twitchy switchblade fingers. If the open road represents opportunity, she’s the embodiment of chaos.

As the suffocating nature of their journey takes hold, Strick does little to ease the tension. With a title like Road Movie, you’d be forgiven for expecting scenes of the sprawling American landscape and yet the Director does all he can to hemm his characters in. Whether it’s in a cosy truck cabin, their even-cosier sleeping quarters or tense confrontations in greasy roadside diners, Hank, Gill and Janice are trapped at all turns by their situation. Even Strick’s copious cut-aways of criss-crossing cars and long-haul convoys do little to offer respite. Instead, all they do is provide yet another dead end.

The only light at the end of their tunnel comes via Janice’s shady mob ties and the promise of a last-minute job, a long-shot but the only shot they have left. It’s a motif that once again harks back to the blind optimism synonymous with the American Dream but one that soon becomes nothing more than a mirage on hot tarmac.

Having spent a year of his teenage youth working as a long-haul trucker, perhaps Strick noticed these doomed themes kicking around whilst doing the rounds. Stories of hardworking people plagued by circumstance and corrupt cops, surviving by the skin-of-their teeth in a desperate attempt to just make ends meet. To Hank and Gil the open road offered them hope and opportunity but in the end all it gave them was a harsh world where the good are punished and chaos remains, ready to thumb a ride to the next stop.

Words by Simon Bland, Digital Content Officer at HOME.

Road Movie returned to screens as part of our Road Movies season. 

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