“The Road” is one of the most evocative two word titles in all of cinema.
It brings up memories of Fellini’s Italian road picture, “La Strada,” the romance of “Two for the Road,” the adaptation of Kerouac’s “On the Road,” even the post-apocalyptic science fiction of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.”
You don’t “own” that title, just just borrow it. Rana Salem trots it out for her debut feature film, a largely dialogue-free Lebanese drama about a Beirut couple who soak up the noise, the life and “the scene” in the capital city, and then throw a few things in the truck and hit the highway.
He (Guy Chartouni) is an urban farmer who grows vegetables and raises chickens on land on the outskirts of the city. By night, he’s a performance artist/DJ, putting on laser and light and animation shows for the cognoscenti.
His beard doesn’t give him away, but the tattoos and earrings do. He’s something of a hipster.
She (writer-director Salem) just quit her job and seems a little lost, a trifle overwhelmed and a bit subservient to his ideas, ambitions and whims. He’s the one who puts them on the road.
Salem’s film gives us a taste of the lovely Lebanese countryside, and the grumpy, outsider-resenting locals.
“The Road” is meant to be nostalgic, letting these two reminisce about past trips, perhaps lives left behind. But it doesn’t amount to much of anything. One night of passion, one snippy confrontation, one ugly incident, and on they drive.
There is no story arc or character arc, just a lot of scenes conveying a simplistic narrative with pictures, a film that doesn’t hold one’s interest for more than a third of Salem’s indulgent 96 minute first (it came out in 2015) and thus far only movie.
Rating: unrated, violence, sex, smoking
Cast: Guy Chartouni and Rana Salem.
Credits: Scripted and directed by Rana Salem. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:36