REVIEW: THE ROAD
Directed by John Hillcoat
Starring Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee
Desolation. Forest fires and earthquakes. Cannibalism. Good versus evil.
This is the end of the world as Cormac McCarthy sees it.
Based on the novelist’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Road depicts the quiet transition of the world into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. No one knows exactly what happened – there was a flash and then everything changed – but those left on earth aimlessly wander as vagrants looking for food and shelter to survive.
Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit McPhee play the nameless roles of father and son, Man and Boy. Puttering around with their shopping cart of belongings, the inseparable duo do all they can to escape death – from nature and man.
The Boy, born into the grey, ash-filled world knows nothing of the past and relies on his father for stories of hope. He needs reassurance that their way of living is right – that they are the “good guys,” who wouldn’t eat humans like the gangs of scavengers do and are “carrying the fire” as his father describes it.
Watching the trailer it’s assumed Charlize Theron has an extensive role in the film. However, she’s only seen in a handful of flashbacks as the wife and mother who could no longer live in a world of utter bleakness. She chides her husband to allow her, and their son, to commit suicide. Adamant to survive he rebukes her and she eventually leaves her son and husband in the darkness of the night.
The film, unlike many other end-of-the-world epics, relies on silence rather than impressive explosions to convey the depravity the Boy and Man face. There aren’t many run-ins with gangs – and when they do occur they’re much less dramatic and intense than one would imagine – and their contact with others are usually brief and unmemorable. However, they do cross paths with an older man (Robert Duvall) revealing how the Man’s heart has hardened, as he doesn’t want to help him until his son forces his hand. The charity and goodness the Man instilled in the Boy is coming to the fore as it wanes in him. The closer they get to the coast – hoping the desolation dies where the land ends – the more the Man ensures the Boy he’s capable of surviving on his own.
While there could be more – more action, drama and suspense – the film offers hope in the wake of destruction; a glimmer of light in the darkness. Not a prototypical film for December, but one that finds a way to fit.