About halfway through The Rover, there is a scene where Eric (Guy Pearce) and Rey (Robert Pattinson) are sitting around and just chatting — which in this film means just one person talking while Pearce stares in the distance. Rey is recounting a random story from his childhood about being on a farm just after Eric had told him that he used to be a farmer. After telling the story, Eric turns to Rey and asks why he was telling him all this. Softly, Rey said “Sometimes a story doesn’t have a meaning.”
I think that this is the case for The Rover also. Despite its post-apocalyptic background and the fact that the economy is close to nil over the course of this film, there isn’t an underlying message about the modern economy or anything going on today. I think under all the dirt and dust that covers this rather melancholy film, it is about a man seeking redemption and finding it in a naive boy, but doesn’t realize it until it is too late.
The Rover follows Eric as he faces the challenges of the Australian wasteland 10 years after an economic collapse. We meet Eric at a “bar” before cutting away to a speeding car where Henry (Scoot McNairy) yells at his two comrades before the car flips. The men get out and rush to a nearby vehicle (Eric’s) and speed off. Eric notices his missing car and chases after them and the story develops beyond that.
Pearce gives a vicious performance as Eric, a man who is wandering around but still linked to his vehicle. His backstory is vague and little deposition comes our way. When Eric meets Rey, he is just a pawn. Rey is daft and makes the mistake of linking himself and his brother to the vehicle Eric stole from the men to chase after his own. Badly wounded, Eric takes Rey to a doctor who treats him enough to get him mobile before Eric shoves a pistol down his throat again.
Eric reminded me of a character I saw earlier this year in Dwight from Blue Ruin. Both characters enter with no deposition other than that they have to kill the other man. Both are driven by something that happened before the present story, and are clearly haunted by what happened. But where Dwight surpasses Eric is that his story is directing affecting him and what he is doing while Eric’s is just what is defining him at this point.
We never figure out what really happened to Eric, just that it happened and he is years away from it. We don’t understand why he wanders around without any real intent to shack up somewhere. We get an idea at the end why he needed his car back but there isn’t that moment of clear redemption for this character.
He ends the movie where he began and while he probably gained some sort of compassion for Rey, he knew that their relationship was only good as far as he could throw it. To an extent, I respect that. While I wanted more reason or story to why Eric was here, the story that was present was good enough.
The Rover never tries to preach to you a message of something greater than what is on screen. It presents to you this story of a man, and like a western, allows you to join him on his journey. It isn’t a large journey or anything spiritual, it is just a journey to keep what little he has close to him sacred. And with that, I respect it.