Film Review: On The Road

Walter Salles’ film is a fittingly wistful adaptation of the Jack Kerouac novel. Occasionally feeling its two hour plus duration, On The Road nevertheless works in its ambling style.

Sal Paradise is a struggling young writer. When Dean Moriarty enters his life, Sal is beguiled by his free-spirited way. Embarking in a journey across America with Dean and his girl Marylou, Sal’s life is changed by his friends and others he meets along the way…

The story of On The Road unfolds at its own pace. The film lacks a firm structure, but this is unsurprising given the source material. What makes the film watchable is the great performances and the well executed portrayal of the relationship between the characters. The friendship between Sal and Dean in particular is depicted with a sense of believability. It is easy to see the allure of a character like Dean for Sal, given his rather mundane existence.

Walter Salles does a commendable job in attempting to capture the essence of Kerouac’s work. The  director tries to capture a sense of the Beat Generation; the portrayal of the period at least appears authentic. The problem is that the nature of Kerouac’s novel means that the film meanders. For the most part, the performances are engaging enough to compensate for this. However, on a few occasions the film feels overlong.

There are some beautiful shots in On The Road that capture the variant landscapes. Salles excels in depicting the changing landscapes throughout the journey, giving the audience a really sense of distance covered. The music always seems entirely in keeping with the on screen action.

Garrett Hedlund is fantastic as Dean Moriarity. He really embodies the character, and his performance is often compelling. Sam Riley is also great as Sal. Kristen Stewart is less engaging as Marylou, while Kristen Dunst provides good support as Camille.

On The Road is not flawless, but it does have attributes that make it a worthwhile watch.