The Road (2009)

And I, I choose the road less travelled.

Director: John Hillcoat

Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce, Kodi Smit-McPhee

Genre: Drama

Type: Independent

Running Time: 119 minutes

Rated R

Adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same title, The Road holds true to the author’s depiction of a devastated and desolate earth after the “explosion”.

After a time, the system that is humanity ultimately disintegrates. People die from disease, starvation, suicide or worse, are victims of cannibalism. The Man (Mortensen) and The Boy (Smit-McPhee) trek across the barren, dark, ashy terrain that is now America with the goal of reaching the coast and then heading south. They must try to survive off of whatever they can find, often dead crickets or shrivelled fruit. Things that used to be important- clothes, a big house, shoes, money- no longer matter. One such scene that depicts this honestly and forwardly shows The Man and The Boy entering an abandoned and dolorous city centre, simply stepping over wads of strewn, ash-covered  cash on the ground. Who needs money now? When there is no food, no gas, no clothes, nothing to purchase.

Along with the breakdown of the structure of our world today, comes the dissolution of human compassion, which was rare enough when everything was normal. Cannibals are the greatest concern, along with finding food to survive, for The Man and The Boy. It is unlikely for them to stumble across a helpful stranger. It is more likely for them stumble across a starving and desperate man who would choose to kill them both and eat them, as opposed to helping each other to survive. It is a matter of every man for himself. The wisest thing they can do is stay off the road.

The book and movie strongly revolve around the father and son dynamic. It is truly beautiful and extremely heartbreaking. All they have is one another. The Man vows to protect his son from any harm and threatens to kill anyone who so much as looks at him. And he does, leaving him with only one bullet left in his gun. If worse comes to worse, would he be able to kill his son in the hopes of saving him from something else vicious and frightening?

Hillcoat did a wonderful job, in my opinion, of depicting the powerful and compendious prose of McCarthy. He brought the images to life accurately and vividly- ironically, of course, considering the bleak and disheartening atmosphere that is the post-explosion.  There are no blue skies, no sun, or green trees or blue ocean. There are no birds, no pets, no fish. Emptiness. Ash covers the earth because of all the fires, dead trees fall in the forests, garbage covers the roads and cities, food stores are barren and there are hardly any people in sight. He also did well in depicting the flashbacks that The Man has of The Woman (Theron). The simple, yet always effective use of differing the colour of the flashback. Where if the colours of the scene were normally bright and vivid, the flashback would be in black and white. Clearly it is the opposite in the case of The Road. Wide shots were a staple, effective in showing the landscape, and close-ups were great in showing us emotion.

Mortensen’s performance was galvanic and magnetic. I think he portrayed The Man extremely well. He was all of contemplative, brave, scared, loving, sacrificing, honest, quiet, wary and determined. Where I felt sad when reading the book, I actually bawled when watching the movie.

It is important as a film critic to review the film before you and not compare it to either it’s book, another film adaptation from the same author or the director’s previous work. For example, try not compare this adaption of The Road to the Coen brothers’ adaptation of No Country for Old Men, both written by McCarthy.

This is what I call a ‘good movie’. It is honest and human and raw and gritty and…true to form. Alternatively, it could a be a ‘happy’ film that was original, fresh and unique in its own right. Like when you are so unbelievably hungry and you get to eat exactly what it was you were craving and by the end of it, you feel so entirely content and fulfilled. I don’t know about you, but when I’m hungry and I eat something that I wasn’t hungry for in the first place, I’m still hungry afterwards. I say this because some people have asked me why a lot of my reviews only have 2 or 3 stars. Please see my Rating System (to the right in the sidebar). 2 or 3 stars doesn’t necessarily mean it was ‘bad’. It might have been very enjoyable, yes, but it’s not necessarily a film I can’t stop talking about with my friends and family, a film that truly resonates within me and that I know I will remember years from now. To me, if i can just think of the film’s name and my heart skips a beat or the emotions I felt when I saw it come rushing back immediately, & all I want to do is talk about every aspect of it, THAT is a damn good movie. That movie ROCKED.

The Long and Short: It is almost similar to Book of Eli minus unrealistic action and Bible story line. More dynamic relationships and realistic, dreary atmosphere. The acting is good, the plot is good (no ridiculous plot holes or any “yeah, right” moments- more like “sheer luck!” moments), and the directing is good.

My Recommendation: I think this movie was underrated and I recommend you see this, if post-apocalypse is your cup of tea. Best seen alone, or with a friend (or two) that will take it just as seriously as you

Favourite Scene: The cannibal house.

Verdict:   A


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