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On paper, there was no one better than director Walter Salles to take the helm of the big screen adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s highly revered beat generation epic On The Road, the partly autobiographical, state-of-the-nation, travel journal-cum-novel that occupies a spot among the upper echelons of American literature.

Salles took Che Guevara’s The Motorcycle Diaries and made it a humorous, insightful, politically astute road movie, a tale of awakening of the soul and the mind.

On The Road captures the same sense of changing times, as aspiring writer Sal (an excellent Sam Riley) crisscrosses 1950s America with Garrett Hedlund’s Dean Moriarty, a free-wheeling, responsibility-shirking drifter whose unshackled view of life and the world chimes with Sal’s longing for escapism.

It is a beautifully shot film, Salles’ carefully chosen cinematography wistfully portraying the beauty of nature, of urbanity and of the sheer technicolour luminescence of life in all its shades.

Dean and Sal indulge their hedonistic excesses in Mexico, dance and party in New Orleans, and travel the country with all kinds of hangers-on – including Kristen Stewart’s druggy tag-along.It is a tribute to the experimental, inquisitive spirit in all of us.

Yet while its meandering narrative captures the unpredictability of life on the highway, in society’s hinterlands, it struggles to capture an affecting emotional journey.

Sal’s growth from smitten boy to wise young man, and Dean’s journey from object of envy to sympathy, is subtly performed yet regrettably understated.

 Good for: Seeing a literary classic transposed to the screen with too much fidelity.

Starring: Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart | 15 | 124mins


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On The Road film review
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