The Road Movie is a strange film that could only exist as the result of a cultural phenomenon. There is an apparent prevalence of dashboard cameras in Russia, leading to an excess of footage of various roadside shenanigans for drivers to capture. Enter documentarian Dmitrii Kalashnikov, who has collected a plethora of these roadside encounters and compiled them into just over an hour of cinema, and for what is essentially a glorified hour of Russia’s Funniest Home Videos, The Road Movie is surprisingly entertaining and, at times, even a bit sentimental.
The majority of The Road Movie is designed to tickle the funny bones. Absurd car collisions and human interactions are captured to the accompaniment of bizarrely on-point talk radio or the creative cursing of the car’s occupants, but more often than not this is a movie that specifically provokes a laugh response. We watch a military tank try to go through a car wash. We see someone steal a camera even as it’s still recording, only to have the camera’s owner chase them down to reclaim it. We observe a gaggle of young women struggle to set up the camera even as it records their inadequacies. These vignettes have the kind of rich comedic timing that only comes from spur of the moment surprise and a proper emotional distance from the property damage being depicted, but it almost never fails to entice that base human desire to see others’ hilariously framed misfortune.
However, Kalashnikov isn’t below showing humanity in his subjects. Some car collisions are tragic in their consequences, and the cut to the next sequence leaves one wondering the fate of those involved. Sometimes scary individuals show up outside someone’s car, threatening them with violence as they helplessly sit in their protective casing of glass and steel. But there is sweetness too, such as when a driver helps a woman reclaim her belongings from a taxi driver who drove off with them. The dark pleasure of ironic human suffering is omnipresent, but Kalashnikov never lets you forget that these are real people being captured and not just anonymous cars causing anonymous mayhem.
There isn’t much more one can say about The Road Movie without experiencing it, because to do so would be only to spoil more of the sequences, and there’s only so much one can effectively review a home movie clipshow. What you should take away from this review is that The Road Movie is a good time, particularly if you can share the experience with someone else or a theater full of people similarly inclined to laugh along. Revolutionary it is not, but The Road Movie will make for a fast and furious bit of human comedy if you let it.