With every Australian film comes a glimmer of hope for the Aussie born-and-bred film buff, a spark of optimism and a large degree of expectation that this might be the one. This film will put Australia, and Australian Cinema up there… this could be the start of something great for all of us… And so premiering at Cannes 2014 (along with another Aussie feature Charlie’s Country) breath was held for The Rover, and while it is not a joyous exhalation or a sigh of frustration that is released, there is definitely something about the more poignant moments in this film, hidden beneath the chase and noise that succeed in giving it some kind of substance.
Set in a kind of post apocalyptic Australian outback, Guy Pearce is Eric, a hardened traveller, the rover, a man of few words and a great deal of morale; out to find his stolen car. Along the way he picks up Rey, Robert Pattinson, a half-wit brother of one of the car-thieves. Presumed dead by his older brother, Rey was left to die with a gunshot wound in his side after a shoot-out with another group of thugs. Eric, seeing some use for Rey, takes him along to use leverage and whilst on the road the two develop a strange kind of bond.
Largely a film of little dialogue both Pearce and Pattinson do an excellent job. Pearce’s expressions are haunting to say the least and somehow he manages to convey so much through the unshaven stubble. On the other side of the spectrum, it is great to see the sparkling vampire that was Robert Pattinson so grubby and real in this dystopian drama. His performance as Rey is startlingly honest and capturing. Approximately halfway through the film, in one of the few moments of conversation between Eric and Rey, Eric angrily demands “Why are you telling me this?” to which Rey replies “Not everything has to be about something”. It is these – fleeting and few – moments of insight that really bring the film together, showcasing Michod’s talent as a director for the subtleties in human interaction. The ‘world’ he creates is real, it's haunting, it's typically Australian thriller type – lending itself to mystery and a sense of horror that we are familiar with in Australian films. Perhaps overused as a stereotype, none the less it works well for The Rover; allowing for some alluring cinematography.
The film feels, in more ways than one, like it would have made a really good short film, as a feature however, there are some things that just don’t quite click. The soundtrack at times feels a little awkward with an overuse of ambient sounds and silence somewhat mismanaged. The plot, the use of setting and the little back-story given are all perfect elements for a short film, however this one tends to wander – through towns across the outback and to moments of conversation that seem unnecessary, but at the same time open the door, only a crack, into the lives of these hardened characters. Perhaps one of the strangest and at the same time most endearing moments arises when R-Patz is found sitting in the car, alone, singing to Keri Wilson’s Pretty Girl Rock. Like most of the film, it leaves you feeling slightly confused but also mildly entertained.
A great deal of this film could have been explored deeper; the backstory around the collapse, Guy Pearce's character and his motivations are only touched upon – whilst this element of mystery adds to the appeal of the character, a stronger resolution for a film of this length would have made a big difference. Nevertheless the strong performances succeed in creating an engaging film.