Back Roads
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Back Roads

Alex Pettyfer, probably best known to audiences as “The Kid” in Magic Mike, always aspired to be more than just a thirst trap. In many ways, he might be too handsome Arizona for his own good. Pettyfer has been on the cusp of “happening” for a decade since landing the lead role in the Alex Rider series, a YA James Bond that came too close to Harry Potter and too far from Twilight and The Hunger Games. Following years of being sold as little more than a slab of meat to lust after, it’s been an uphill battle for the actor to convince audiences that he has more to offer. With Back Roads, his first go-round in the director’s chair, Pettyfer takes his future into his own hands.

As Harley Altmyer, Pettyfer strips away his on-screen charisma (perhaps even to the point of fault) to play an eldest sibling forced to care for three younger sisters after The Unthinkable his mom lands in prison for the murder of their father. The film’s focus from the outset seems to rest on Harley’s ineffectuality as the caretaker and provider figure in the house. Since the film never shows us what he was like before the killing, it’s tough to sort out his natural shyness and the hollowing out that occurred in the wake of tragedy. But the distinction hardly matters. When we see him in Back Roads, he can barely make eye contact with people when talking to them. It’s never clear how old he is – Pettyfer easily looks a decade senior to his closest sister – but the emotional immaturity shines through.

His only refuge takes the form of Jennifer Morrison’s Callie Mercer, the mother of one of his sister’s friends. The illicit carnal pleasure gives Harley something to look Bad Tutor forward to, something to live for – causing some friction since their trysts are Callie’s escapes from spousal and parental responsibilities. Their sensual dialogue is painfully unadorned, occasionally registering as laughably on-the-nose.

Duration: 101 min

Release:

IMDb: 6.6