Conquered I was by Animal Kingdom the first feature film of Australian director David Michôd. On the other hand, The Rover appeared to me, as too vague, almost sloppy. The first and only thing that held my attention was Robert Pattinson‘s performance, as Rey, a weak-minded fella, full of all sorts of facial and body tics. What surprised me is how much I empathized with his character, to the point of liking watching the evolution of his unexpected relationship with the man chasing his brother, played by Guy Pierce.
Indeed, briefly, the story is set in a post apocalyptic time, where primary resources are limited and where every one is carrying a gun. Guy Pierce plays Eric, a solitary man, who hasn’t any family or relatives. As he walks into what appears to be a Chinese bar, a pick up with three guys in it, including Rey’s brother Henry (Scott McNairy), rolls over and crashes next to the bar. The three guys, were actually fighting over going back to where occurs a dangerous altercation, and get Rey who was left for dead. When their engine wouldn’t start over, they stole Eric’s car, and flee.
What is important to understand, is that in a world where getting necessary supplies is very tough, loosing what’s left of a past wealthy life is the worst thing that could happen. This is why Eric decides to chase the trio, and get his car back. Lucky for him, he falls into Rey, who will guide him to the place the men were headed.
Like any post-apocalypse, a real struggle between the civilians and the Army rises. And the vague question raised by Michôd is about mankind’s ability to construct a new form of society, broken into several pieces; gangs. So either you belong to a sort of distorted community, or you are on your own.
While Eric seemed to spend a long time alone with himself, he slowly learnt with Rey how to connect with someone again.
Through this last one’s innocence, and vulnerability, Eric’s shell gets all cracked. Indeed, when the young man recalls his childhood, a peaceful time, Eric gets emotional and angry.
After trying very hard to mourn, remembering is hurtful. The real clivage between the two main characters lays here, one is holding on to positive things, which are gone, and will never repeat themselves (also he is somehow holding on to his brother’s love), whereas the other is holding on to a difficult past, and reveals a partially acknowledgment of a lost time.
However, The Rover’s core greatness is the director’s very interesting approach, and original exploitation of the relationship of two characters very different but related because of experiencing a same traumatic, or at least life-changing, twist. They somehow converged their vision into a same third one, through a slow process well captured by David Michôd. But, unfortunately, many things are left aside, things that could have added efficient substance to the film; a deeper analysis of Guy Pierce’s character, or a better understanding of the Army’s positionnement for example.
Pain, palpable weakness of the mind, the unbearable pressure of an unusual situation are somehow emerging from the actors’ performances and David Michôd’s supporting shots. But despite all that, I have a strong feeling of emptiness surrounding the actors, as if they were acting in a blank blurry empty space.