US Release Date: 11-25-2009
Directed by: John Hillcoat
- Viggo Mortensen, as
- Kodi Smit-McPhee, as
- Robert Duvall, as
- Old Man
- Guy Pearce, as
- Molly Parker, as
- Motherly Woman
- Charlize Theron as
This is one bleak and depressing film.
Since the novel by Cormac McCarthy won a Pulitzer Prize I can only guess that it's better than the movie version and I think I can see why. On the written page you can delve deeper into the characters, their thoughts and emotions, but on the screen you have to rely on the actors and their external actions. And while both the two leads do a good job, the film is so dark and so depressing that it's a pretty tough slog to get through.
Following an unspecified apocalyptic event, a man and his son are traveling south to the coast across the desolate remains of America. All animal life is dead and the remaining plants are dying. The sky is uniformly grey and the landscape is colorless and bleak. What's left of humanity must scrounge for food and many have turned to cannibalism. Gangs of men roam the countryside taking what they want from whomever they want. It's an unrelentingly depressing vision that shows humanity at their worst with very little cause for hope.
As is usual for Viggo Mortensen, he throws himself into his part. He very convincingly plays and looks like an end of the world survivor. He also shares a connection with young Smit-McPhee as his son. They have a very believable father-son chemistry. Robert Duvall and Guy Pearce are the only other recognizable actors in the film apart from Charlize Theron who plays the dead mother in a few very small flashbacks. I guess it was an attempt to attract women to the film that they showed her in the previews nearly as much as Viggo despite her part being basically an extended cameo appearance.
While I wanted something good to happen to the man and his son, you can tell from the mood of the film that it's not going to happen. It's this lack of hope that makes the movie so hard to watch. I mean, who wants to be depressed for the length of an entire movie? I know I don't. Is that a criticism of the film? I mean, it is depressing, but that's what it set out to be, so I guess it succeeded. The boy does offer some hope by the end of the story. He and the father talk about how they are the good guys and the boy wants to help those in need that they meet on the road. You could see that as hope for humanity, but it's a pretty slim one.
I've always enjoyed a good end of the world film and I'm not someone who has to have a happy ending to every movie, but I do like to be entertained. And I just can't say that I was by this film.
Perhaps a father would appreciate this movie more since it shows the lengths a father will go to care for his son. It's the driving force of the story. The man giving the last days of his life at the end of the world to see his son survive after he is gone.
How determined can a father be to protect his son?
Bleak is definitely the right word to describe this movie. As Scott wrote this is one relentlessly depressing vision of humanities’ future. The ending allows the audience slight reason for hope but by then you’ve been through the wringer emotionally following this father and son on the grayest of roads. Nearly the entire film has a drab gray look to it, this road is the cinematic antithesis of Oz, yellow bricked it is not.
I agree that the book is probably better. Movies can never get inside the heads of its characters like books are able to. The acting though is above par. Viggo and Kodi do have a very believable father/son chemistry going on. In fact this can be said of the entire movie. The premise of this world may be fantastic but the portrayal of it is exceptionally realistic
The characters behave how actual people might. There is no spectacular heroism done purely for the entertainment value alone. As Scott said it is clearly trying to be a downer and it does indeed succeed. I found it interesting from the sense of picturing myself under these extreme conditions and circumstances. At what point do you just give up? On this psychological level The Road succeeds brilliantly, as entertainment not so much.
The bleaker the situation, the more determined a father becomes to protect his son.
In The Road, mankind has been reduced to acting like animals scavenging for food. They steal, kill and eat each other in the name of survival. The Dad has lost all trust and compassion for anyone but his son.
It is only in the son that we see any hope for humanity. He wants to make contact with strangers, and help other travelers. He even feels pity for the ones who have done them wrong.
The son asks his dad if they are the good guys. He answers yes, and describes it by telling him it is the fire inside him. It is that flame of hope that the boy clings to. Later, he asks his dad if they would ever eat people, even if they were starving. His dad again answers no. His father is instilling in him standards that keeps the boy from losing hope. They need each other more than any two characters I have ever seen in a movie.
Yes Scott, as a father this movie did affect me. The scene where the Dad shows his son how to kill himself, if the need should ever come, was heart breaking. I cannot imagine having to do such a thing.
Unlike Scott and Patrick, I was entertained. The father and son live in a constant state of fear. They, and you, never know what danger the next building, or stretch of road, may bring.
The one scene that did not work for me was when they left the bomb shelter because they heard a dog bark. They believe it means they will soon be found. The next scene has them pulling a cart with all the food they could carry. It did not ring true that they would so easily abandon the best shelter and food supply they had come across. Like my brothers wrote, the book no doubt better explains it and as such, I intend on reading the novel.
Photos © Copyright Dimension Films (2009)