We Are Not Gonna Quit. We Are Gonna Survive This.
Does the 2009 film The Road do justice to the Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name? Yes it does. Although there are some liberties taken, The Road remains a faithful adaption to the novel.
The Road may be one of the best films I never want to see again. It is filled to the brim with tear stinging sadness, unimaginable suffering, and utter hopelessness. The film does strongly advocate for perseverance, but the suffering brought to light in this world makes watching this film akin to what I would imagine getting stabbed feels like.
Nevertheless The Road tells a heartfelt story and combines them with some excellent cinematography and acting, making this one of the darkest, but greatest post apocalyptic movies out there.
An unnamed man (Viggo Mortensen) and his unnamed son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) attempt to survive after a post apocalyptic event wiped out most living plant and animal life.
Films that have a horror and shock factor interconnecting with their plot tend to have different levels of shock factor. Using a theoretical scale of 1-10 with 1 being the least shocking and 10 being the most shocking, most films will encompass a variety of different shocking events throughout the film, usually films build with smaller shocks 1-2’s and progressively increase the shock level to 9-10’s.
So where does The Road fall into this scale?
Well in the first 10 minutes of The Road, The Man gets into an intense discussion/demonstration with his son when he tries to stress the importance of committing suicide with a hand gun before the “bad guys,” get him. This is of course done with The Man holding a handgun next to The Boy’s head, while The Boy is crying and looks scared shit-less. In my opinion I was at a 10 after that scene.
On my first viewing, and being aware of the fact that I was only 10 minutes into this movie, I realized that I had not seen anywhere near the worst of what this movie was going to show… and I hadn’t.
When The Road isn’t using scenes like that to overwhelm you, it takes a step back into scenes with silences and widescreen shots of desolate landscapes. The juxtaposition between extremely shocking scenes, and absolute quiet had my skin crawling with anticipation… waiting for some inexplicable act of madness to descend on the father and son.
The film is almost entirely told from the point of the father and son, with other people making an occasional appearance. That being said strong performances are needed by these two actors in order for this movie to work, and they get them, especially from Viggo Mortensen, who manages to perfectly blend the love he has for his son with his will to live.
Flashbacks, to before the apocalypse which feature The Woman (Charlize Theron) arguing with her presumed husband The Man about trying to live on. These scenes take the most liberties from the book, and may irritate some purists, but on the whole I felt these flashbacks helped to underscore just what kind of hell the world had become.
Cinematography in this film features some breathtaking shots, but the beauty that can be found visually is always haunted by the reality of the world The Road is set in. What would ordinarily be beautiful landscapes are now inherently corrupted.
For most people The Road will not have a replay factor attached to it. It’s one of those movies that is so depressing, that watching it will make you want to give up on life. Ironically the message the movie is trying to get across is the opposite of that, which one might consider to be a flaw, but to be honest, I really wasn’t too bothered by this. If there is a problem with The Road it’s the ending, which was touching, but expected, and didn’t have the emotional release I was expecting.
I would like to recommend The Road to everybody; it’s a well made film, with a well told story, but for people who have a hard time with violence and intense drama you should avoid this movie. If you’re looking for a movie that’s dark and filled with sadness then this is for you.