Jean-Marc Barr is a middle-aged, alcoholic Jack Kerouac trying to outrun his demons in Michael Polish’s deft adaptation of the writer’s 1962 novel. Five years after On the Road made Kerouac the reluctant face of the Beat Generation, he returns to San Francisco to reunite with old friends like Lawrence Ferlinghetti (Anthony Edwards), Michael McClure (Balthazar Getty) and Neal Cassady (Josh Lucas) and to attempt to get sober in an isolated Big Sur cabin.

Polish extracts poetry from the writer’s sad late novel. Barr is terrific both in performance and in voice-over as he narrates directly from Kerouac’s book and he is surrounded by exceptionally well-cast support. Lucas’ Cassady in particular is a revelation, perfectly embodying the physicality, speed-rapping charm and sexual charisma Kerouac describes.

Polish’s seventh collaboration with cinematographer M David Mullen yields spectacular results both in the paradise on earth that is Big Sur and in San Francisco in only the third screen adaptation of one of Kerouac’s books and one that proves that the writer’s dense, language-driven novels can, indeed, be gloriously cinematic.

Pam Grady
San Francisco International Film Festival

‘a fragile, gorgeous-looking flicker of a film’
Screen International