Sunday, 14 October 2012


Walter Salles' On the Road may, over time, become known as the definitive cinematic version of Jack Kerouac's novel - there have been none before it, and may be many after it, but it is a remarkably accurate distillation of its source. Salles and writer Jose Rivera concern themselves with the whats, whens and whys, and allow the spirit of the novel to seep into the texture of their film naturally. Their approach is plain, it is also brave and unusual, and it crafts an experience that is much more densely layered than this might suggest - an experience that is about its people, in both real and fictional incarnations, and its audience in equal proportion, about what Kerouac put on the page and about Kerouac himself, and his contemporaries, and all those who have subscribed to his legacy in the years since. The sense of devotion to his creation is palpable in every corner of this adaptation, so thorough and so respectful that it facilitates a tremendously easy and authentic evocation of the era and the culture. And this is reciprocated in how said culture infuses the work of those involved. Cast and crew alike contentedly fulfill their obligations to the project, no fuss, no unnecessary embellishments. When the film comes to life, it does so briefly and subtly yet thrillingly, in the blue light of a doorway, or the stony slap of shoes on hard ground, or Garrett Hedlund's compelling gaze - there are many who could have captured Dean Moriarty's potency and allure, but Hedlund seeks out his agonising lust to be loved, and the love he gives without care. He loves until there is no-one there to be loved any more, and Hedlund seems to shrink away within himself. That hope in his eyes is one of the most memorable images in any film I've seen all year.