Big Sur (film)

Big Sur is a 2013 adventure drama film written and directed by Michael Polish. It is an adaptation of the 1962 novel of the same name by Jack Kerouac.

Big Sur
film poster
Directed byMichael Polish
Produced byRoss Jacobson
Orian Williams
Adam Kassen
Michael Polish
Written byMichael Polish
Based onBig Sur
by Jack Kerouac
Music byAaron and Bryce Dessner
CinematographyM. David Mullen
Release date
  • 23 January 2013 (2013-01-23) (Sundance)
  • 28 April 2013 (2013-04-28) (SFIFF)
Running time
73 minutes (Sundance)[1]
90 minutes (SFIFF)[2]
CountryUnited States
Box office$35,072[3]

The story is based on the time Kerouac spent in Big Sur, California, and his three brief sojourns to his friend Lawrence Ferlinghetti's cabin in Bixby Canyon. These trips were taken by Kerouac in an attempt to recuperate from his mental and physical deterioration due to his alcoholism and the pressures of his sudden success.

The film debuted on January 23, 2013, at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, where it received generally positive reviews.[4] The film received a limited theatrical release in the United States on November 1, 2013.


Jack Kerouac, coming off the recent success of On the Road, is unable to cope with a suddenly demanding public and his rise in popularity, and begins battling with advanced alcoholism as a result. He seeks respite first in solitude in the Big Sur cabin, then in a relationship with Billie, the mistress of his long-time friend Neal Cassady. Kerouac finds respite in the Big Sur wilderness, but is driven by loneliness to return to the city, and resumes drinking heavily.

Across Kerouac's subsequent trips to Big Sur and interleaved lifestyle in San Francisco, he drunkenly embarrasses Cassady by introducing Billie to Cassady's wife Carolyn, cannot emotionally provide for the increasingly demanding Billie, and finds himself increasingly unable to integrate into suburban life. Kerouac's inner turmoil culminates in his nervous breakdown during his third journey to Big Sur.


Unlike the novel, which uses pseudonyms for every major character, the film uses their real names (with the exception of Billie, whose real name is Jackie Gibson Mercer).[5] Also, a few major characters from the novel, such as Allen Ginsberg, Robert LaVigne, Albert Saijo, Gary Snyder, and Alan Watts, were cut from the film.


Much of the filming was in Monterey County, California, including Big Sur, where the events of the novel take place.[6]

Music was composed by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National.

The film was in post-production as of February 2012.[7][8][9][10][11] A teaser trailer was released on Vimeo on September 23.[12]


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film currently has a score of 42%, based on 19 reviews.[4]


  1. "Big Sur | | Archives | Sundance Institute". Retrieved 2014-06-22.
  2. Big Sur. "SFIFF56 - Films - Big Sur". Retrieved 2014-06-22.
  3. "Big Sur (2013)". Box Office Mojo. 2014-01-02. Retrieved 2014-06-22.
  4. "Big Sur". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2014-06-22.
  5. "Cast set for film adaptation of Kerouac's Big Sur | Ampersand | National Post". Archived from the original on 2012-07-09. Retrieved 2015-08-07.
  6. Thornton, Stuart (2011-06-16). "Silver Screen Sur". Archived from the original on 2012-09-09. Retrieved 2015-08-07.
  7. Xan Brooks (2011-04-18). "Jack Kerouac's Big Sur heads to the big screen | Film". London: Retrieved 2015-08-07.
  8. Big Sur – Movie Update | The Beat Museum Archived August 24, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  9. "'Big Sur': Kerouac Adaptation Film Cast Announced". 2011-04-15. Retrieved 2015-08-07.
  10. Wyeth, Wyndham. "Jack Kerouac's Big Sur to Get Film Adaptation :: Movies :: News :: Paste". Retrieved 2015-08-07.
  11. Aug. 9, 2011 AT 9:28AM (2011-08-09). "PIC: Kate Bosworth, Sexy Director-Beau Go on Another Date –". Retrieved 2015-08-07.
  12. "Twitter / katebosworth: A teaser for @michael_polish". Retrieved 2014-06-22.
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