There have been a lot of movies lately that have dealt with the dark and foreboding, detailing their characters' pain, misery and sometimes death. These are topics we try not to think about, but they are vital to our existence and we must face them to truly understand them. Well, you can now place The Road up there with the multitudinous amount of similar films that weave an interesting, dark story that effectively explores these unspoken taboos. It is an excellent film guaranteed to make you ponder over your existence and realize how fragile it really is.
The Road is based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy, the same author who penned No Country for Old Men, which was adapted into a terrific movie a couple years back. Much like that Oscar winning film, The Road is a superbly crafted narrative that has an eye for the dark and depressing, a story that explores a world where evil plays a major part. The film opens with a beautiful post-apocalyptic setting where nothing but ruins stretch as far as the eye can see. Something has caused all life on the planet to be wiped out, sans a select number of human beings and a handful of domesticated animals, and it has been this way for months. All vegetation is gone and even the tiniest bug has been unable to survive. The film follows a father and a son, played by Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee, respectively, as they venture down south hoping to find a better place to live while still avoiding the cannibals roaming the wasteland.
The Road is haunting, with a bleak, dreary landscape and beautiful cinematography that creates an alive, distinctive world. Much like the recent Antichrist, shot after shot is wonderful to look at, a dazzling tour de force of direction. The difference between this and Antichrist, however, is that this movie actually has a story, one that isn't a convoluted mess.
In fact, on the surface, it looks rather simple, but that would be missing the point entirely. Throughout the course of the film, not much happens in regards to a traditional narrative. You merely watch two people trek from point A to point B while running into a few obstacles in between, but The Road is much deeper than that. By the end of their journey, they will face multiple fears, especially the boy, and learn to deal with the harshness that is life and death, to the point where that line is blurred. Sometimes, death seems like a comfort when compared to the world falling apart around them.
Why is the world falling apart, you ask? It never really explains, but I don't suppose it means to. Why it happened in the movie isn't as important as the idea that it could happen and one day might. With multiple wars waging on, the unequal balance of dwindling resources with a growing population, and the threat of a nuclear holocaust from ever expanding technology, this film doesn't try to pinpoint one clear reason as to the destruction of mankind. It's merely a warning that we should take heed, or else we, the human race, might find ourselves in a similar predicament.
If nothing else, the film is about the father/son relationship and the stark contrast between the two. Though both share the same DNA, they couldn't be more different. The father loves his son and will sacrifice anything to ensure his safety, but has a mean side to him where he refuses to help others in need. He tells the kid to look for the "good guys," but even when they find one, like an old man who is starving and nearly blind, he is reluctant to help and only does because his son pleads him to. The movie tells two stories simultaneously. Through the father, it shows how quickly a man can turn from a good, moral person into a savage beast, and through the boy, it shows that compassion can still exist even in the wake of despair.
The Road is a greatly well rounded movie. It takes every important aspect of filmmaking and flawlessly combines them into an unforgettable experience. The direction is lush, the performances are fantastic, the story is gripping, the dialogue is well written and the musical score is beautiful, perfectly complementing the overall picture. It all comes together into a movie many will find ordinary at first, but extraordinary upon reflection. By the end, don't be surprised if you find yourself shedding a tear for humanity and the good that can prevail even when facing extinction. The Road is a remarkable film.
The Road receives 5/5