Don’t look for­ward

Tour doc meets paean to ado­les­cence in new film On the Road

Esquire (UK) - - Culture -

Life not be­ing about the desti­na­tion but the jour­ney seems to be a les­son that di­rec­tor Michael Win­ter­bot­tom has taken to heart. The Trip, his TV se­ries with Rob Bry­don and Steve Coogan in which they play par­o­dic ver­sions of them­selves on driv­ing hol­i­days is less about the restau­rants they re­view and more about how they in­ter­act. Im­pres­sions. Jokes. Im­pres­sions. Chat. More im­pres­sions. Even though they are pro­fes­sion­ally funny men, there’s some­thing com­fort­ingly un­am­bi­tious about their repartee. Some­thing al­most, you might think, nor­mal.

Then you watch On the Road, and you re­mem­ber that, oh yes, nor­mal peo­ple’s chat is quite rub­bish, isn’t it?

Ad­mit­tedly, though, the stars of

On the Road have a lot of dead time to fill. The film is a quasi-doc­u­men­tary fol­low­ing Bri­tish band Wolf Alice as they travel up and down mo­tor­ways in a tour bus. Of course, Wolf Alice aren’t co­me­di­ans; nor are they hard­ened rock’n’rollers — one scene shows the drum­mer cut­ting loose with cru­dités and a pot of hum­mus — but they do seem like jolly nice peo­ple as they sound­check, pose for self­ies with fans, and wait for a ra­dio host to fin­ish his seg­ment on ash dieback dis­ease.

In keep­ing with his in­ter­est in the line where fact and fic­tion blur, and to add a lit­tle piz­zazz — by which we mean, ob­vi­ously, pen­e­tra­tive sex — Win­ter­bot­tom in­tro­duces two made-up char­ac­ters, a joc­u­lar Scot­tish roadie, Joe (James McAr­dle), and Estelle (Leah Henry), one of those mys­te­ri­ous peo­ple from “man­age­ment” whose pri­mary pur­pose on the tour seems to be procur­ing tow­els. They chat, they flirt, they piz­zazz.

In some ways, this nar­ra­tive seems an un­nec­es­sary dis­trac­tion, be­cause what On the Road re­veals is that be­ing on tour is a strange, hazy form of ex­is­tence. Han­govers. Small talk. Han­govers. Short bursts of ex­cite­ment. More han­govers. But per­haps most of all, Win­ter­bot­tom’s film cap­tures the glo­ri­ous­ness of be­ing young. Of pre­fer­ring to be in the mosh pit, of find­ing pro­fun­dity in cer­tain song lyrics that will stay with you your whole life, and of be­ing able to lux­u­ri­ate in bore­dom, be­fore life starts to rat­tle past and the desti­na­tion starts to come into view. —

On the Road is out in cin­e­mas on 29 Septem­ber

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