- 29 January 2010
- By Gerard Wood
For the most part, director John Hillcoat's adaptation of The Road is hard going, almost unbearably tense and unremittingly grim. And yet it is a profoundly moving portrait of a father (Viggo Mortensen) doing his utmost to protect his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and to prepare the boy for the inevitable moment when the child must stand alone. That this everyday goal of any caring parent takes place in the most convincing post-apocalyptic landscape we've witnessed on screen heightens the intensity of the experience rather than adding a degree of unbelievably as it otherwise could.
In a dying world in which morality has been sacrificed on the alter of personal survival, the nameless father strives to ignite and nurture "the fire" within his son's heart. Call it righteousness or altruism, it is the survival of human(e) spirit. Adapted from Cormac McCarthy's 2006 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the story has considerable weight, the performances are outstanding - the relationship between the father and child as convincing as any we've been privileged to witness on screen - with superb supporting performances, in particular Robert Duvall's cameo as a broken wanderer. The landscape through which the father and son travel on their quest to reach the coast is a threatening presence that emphasises their human frailty. This is a world in ruin, bereft of animal life and food crops, sparsely populated, but dominated by armed and brutal communities that have descended into cannibalism.
The novel has apparently gained the approval of the religiously inclined and, if so, I suspect it is as much for its apocalyptic scenario (always a turn on for the religious right) as its theological allusions and emphasis on morality. But morality is not the exclusive province of religions, and in any case the core set of values that the father strives to instill in his son are definitively humane (not definitively of any religious persuasion). As for theological allusions, I seriously doubt that human consciousness can conceive of the end of the world without alluding to matters theological, so that any religious allusions are not really out of context.
Until, perhaps, the concluding scene.
In a movie bereft of even a skerrick of humour (although there are touching moments of interaction between father and son which bring a smile to your face), it is the one humourous moment. And I have no doubt that it's unintentional.
The apocalyptic landscape of The Road is populated by single men wandering alone and broken; it is dominated by orgiastic, childless and flesh obsessed communities (ok, they're cannibals); the only other parent we come across is a single mother, and she ends up in the cannibals' cooking pot; and of course the main character, a single father who is "deserted" by his wife (Charlize Theron), dies, and in doing so paves the way for the child's deliverance into the bosom of an ideal nuclear family: father, mother, two children, plus dog (the only living four-legged critter we've seen)! After all the horror this resolution feels out of joint, almost ridiculous, and it got me wondering whether the story is in fact a (faith-based) diatribe against the decline of the nuclear family!
I am being facetious of course. While it is perhaps an idealistic ending, it's not really hopeful as nothing is certain in the end times (and there's always a possibility that the nuclear family might actually eat the boy rather than adopt him...). When all is said and done The Road is not an enjoyable movie, it's way too intense, even stressful to be enjoyed, but for all that it is profoundly moving, remarkably satisfying and highly recommended.
- Cruise's Oblivion a visually stylish post-apocalyptic tripTom Cruise plays drone repairman Jack Ha...
- Iron Man 3 [***]As Lt. Col. James Rhodes might say (priv...
- Johnny Depp is Tonto in The Lone Ranger: posters and trailers Disney has sent us a few character pos...
- The Wolverine trailers: Hugh Jackman fights Japanese Samurai and immortalityAfter the amazing X-Men: First Class sta...