Set in a post-apocalyptic world in the Australian Outback, The Rover is a Saturnine story about two archetypal loners, each having suffered a huge personal loss that needs to be rectified in a land where procedural justice is a thing of the past.
Written and directed by David Michôd, the movie takes place after what’s referred to as The Collapse. Eric (Guy Pearce), traveling solo in his car, has made a stop for provisions. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, some criminal types abandon their crashed truck and ride off in Eric’s vehicle. In fairly short order, Eric, who is now driving the truck left by the thieves, stumbles on Rey (Robert Pattinson), a severely injured young man left for dead in the road.
The Rover, whose deserted and desert-like geography practically exudes its own lungs-busting heat, moves at a pace consistent with sun-baked exhaustion. But the film cuts deep grooves as it advances – life is cheap here and people get killed – so that we know that stakes are high for both men.
Eric is clearly very attached to his stolen car and is committed to getting it back at any cost. His loss is akin to a bereavement, which seems tied to something that happened in his past. “No one ever came after me, and that hurt more than getting my heart broken,” says Eric, crushed. Grief is also eating away at Rey, whom we learn had been abandoned by his brother (Scoot McNairy) and two other accomplices (David Field and Tawanda Manyimo) after a robbery that’s resulted in a death.
Eric, knowing that Rey, who’s mentally challenged, can take him to the men who stole his car, tends to Rey’s injuries to keep him alive. Suddenly, we have two humorless men with a mutual goal riding towards payback in the truck that Eric intends to trade in for his beloved sedan, once he finds it.
Relentlessly downbeat, The Rover is a bounty of Saturnine issues: survival, self-preservation and getting by with the barest of essentials.
What’s in the car is a thematic payoff of sorts, underscoring that going solo through life, especially when Saturn’s laws and rules are absent, is as forbidding as the desolate terrain one is forced to endure.
Astrology Film Rating: ♄ (Saturn)