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  • 15
  • Drama, Thriller
  • 2014
  • 103 mins

The Rover

Film4 The Rover


Ten years after a total social and economic collapse, a nameless drifter (Guy Pearce) has his last possession - his car - stolen by a gang. Bent on retrieving the vehicle, he kidnaps one of the gang (Robert Pattinson), forming an unlikely bond.


Australian writer/director David Michôd's first film, crime drama Animal Kingdom, was such a remarkable debut that the three-year wait for his follow-up has felt cruelly elongated. Whether or not The Rover has been worth that wait depends largely on your expectations: it's a very different film to Animal Kingdom, but Michôd's deliberate, brooding style and downbeat view of humanity permeate both movies like an unshakeable bad mood.

Set in a harsh, unforgiving slab of south Australian desert, The Rover unfolds languidly under the oppressive weight of both a pitiless environment and a pessimistic attitude. In a recognisable future a decade after man's greed has consumed all that is good, its cast of characters are largely interested only in self-preservation and social interaction is a thing of the past. Inhabiting this authentically-realised milieu is Guy Pearce's character (unnamed in the film but called Eric in the production notes), who must reluctantly interact with other people in order to reclaim his stolen car. Eventually he happens upon Rey (Robert Pattinson), the youngest member of the gang who took his car, who’s been left for dead by his comrades. While Eric is world-weary and nurses a simmering anger, Rey is simple-minded and representative of a generation who take what they want without question, and the two men’s relationship forms the withered heart of the film.

Typically, Pearce turns in the kind of intense performance that's rightfully earning him a reputation as one of cinema's most exciting talents: driven by a nameless fury for much of the film, Eric is less a person than a pair of eyes through which David Michôd wants us to see our own possible future, and effectively so. Pattinson, meanwhile, steps even further away from the sparkling vampire that made his name with an assured portrayal here. Rey is vulnerable and naive but has the upper hand in Eric's search for his car, and Pattinson comfortably carries off the complexity of the role; only in his somewhat excessive array of nervous twitches and tics does he ever look like he's actually acting.

The Rover won't be to everyone's tastes: it's a bold and subversive film that requires investment and more than a little patience from the viewer. But its message, however bleak, is an important one told with a fascinating directorial voice, and the film intrigues enough to leave us hungry for Michôd's next.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Scoot McNairy, Robert Pattinson, David Field, Guy Pearce, Anthony Hayes
  • Director: David Michod
  • Writer: David Michod
  • Producer: Adam Rymer, Liz Watts, David Michod, David Linde
  • Photographer: Natasha Braier
  • Composer: Antony Partos

In a nutshell

A cautionary tale with deceptive genre trappings, The Rover is an unconventional, challenging but rewarding watch with riveting performances and assured direction.

by Neil Alcock

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