The characters in David Michôd’s The Rover inhabit a very odd place within the confines of the narrative. They are detached from reality and are driven, almost damagingly, by a single purpose. The world around them weighs down and bears some importance, causing all sorts of tragedies that affect their decisions. But if you stand far away from all these characters and peer at them surreptitiously, you’ll find that they are not interesting, nor very crucial.
We have, essentially, two characters. Eric (Guy Pearce) and Rey (Robert Pattinson). Eric is a hardy, rugged, unforgiving trooper, whose single-minded desire to retrieve his stolen car contaminates the very exuberance of his heart. There is not an ounce of joy in him. I fear that his sexual life would involve chains and mouth gags and all sorts of nasty weapons, and most of his partners would not leave the bedroom alive.
Rey is a half-wit, not of Australian blood, not of Australian accent. He speaks in a deep, whiny Southern drawl that’s incomprehensible at times. He is the younger brother of Henry (Scoot McNairy), who is one of the crooks that robbed Eric of his beloved automobile and sped off to a hamlet in the Australian outback. Rey wants to return to Henry. Eric wants to return to his car. There are no peripherals with these two men. The movie gives them to us as they are, and asks for nothing more.
But I needed more from them. I needed to know that Eric has a heart and that Rey has a brain. Only then would I have been able to relate to them on an emotional level. As they are now, they exist as monochromatic chess pieces, advanced only by the progression of time in the narrative. They share no bond with each other, even though they embark on this journey seemingly as counterparts. Eric needs Rey to find Henry, and ultimately his car, and Rey needs Eric for protection. Yes, it’s one of those buddy road movies, without the buddy.
The Rover is written and directed by Michôd, whose earlier success with the Australian film Animal House landed him the trust to make this one. I have not seen Animal House, but reviews and ratings have shot through the roof. I ponder Michôd’s approach with that film. What were his characters like? Were they likeable? To what lengths did he cajole them into becoming rounded people? Or were they just as two-dimensional as Rey and Eric? In most character arcs there must be some sort of conflict and resolution. This is a given. And this is what we have with Rey and Eric. But this is only the foundation. Characters must present the desire to want to interact with our emotions, whether they be good or bad, heroic or villainous. Rey and Eric play to their own strengths in The Rover, not ours, and in this misstep they fail to capture our hearts. Or at least mine.
Granted, their world is hostile and empty, so they need to be just that bit tougher. It is some time in the future. The American Dollar is the only currency after the economy of the world has suffered a major collapse. Migrants have flocked to Australia, and even though cities like Sydney, Brisbane, and indeed Perth, theoretically still stand, The Rover takes place in the outback, where conditions are as harsh to live in as they are to watch. All colours are brown and grey and yellow. Why, even the redness of blood seems muted away. Some movies want to be looked at. The Rover is content to be viewed from a distance, through tinted glass.
I walked into this movie fifteen minutes late, so I missed the first bit and had to look the plot up on Wikipedia. I was afraid I’d missed vital details. But then the plot unfolded as it did, and I realised that what lay before was not an intricate study of human interactions and human emotions, but a simple quest through the desert, piloted by simple men. The Rover’s an engaging movie, I’ll say that much. But beyond the horizon there is only more sand.
Best Moment | Nope.
Worst Moment | Nope. (I’m writing this review too long after seeing the film. I can’t remember the Best and Worst moments. My apologies.)