The Road is based on Cormac McCarthy's novel of the same name, a powerful and dark book that won critical acclaim and the 2007 Pulitizer Prize. Another of McCarthy's books, No Country for Old Men, was the inspiration behind the Academy Award winning film of the same name. Needless to say, because of the pedigree, expectations for the film were high.
Translating the post-apocalyptic novel to the big screen is a daunting task. Screenwriter Joe Penhall and director John Hillcoat attempted this feat and their interpretation -- as long as you remember it is just that -- of the novel treads well.
Viggo Mortensen alone carries the film. Mortensen embodies the unfailing determination of a man whose only desire and purpose is to ensure his son's survival. Unknown child actor Kodi Smit-McPhee holds his own against the more veteran actor, playing the son who has known no other world than the cold, desolate one his father's has become.
The Road is not about the apocalyptic event -- what caused the catastrophe is never mentioned -- it is about isolation, humanity, love, hope and the lines we cross when survival is the only thing that keeps us moving forward. As the father struggles to keep the two of them alive, his son persists in his attempts to appeal to his father's humanistic side, always failing. The son's naÃ¯ve goodness is a stark contrast against nearly every other aspect of the film -- he does not understand why his father is so unwilling to help those they come across and constantly seeks reassurance they are "the good guys."
The film moves slowly and the absence of dialogue amplifies its length. Although The Road is difficult to watch, the visuals are outstanding because they are both realistic and disturbing. All of the scenes were shot on location, some in a post-Katrina New Orleans.
The film's aesthetic is powerfully bleak, with the landscape surrounding the father and son barren and lacking even a glimpse of colour. Everything that was once alive is dead or dying, the sky a constant shade of gray that endlessly drips rain and everything has been rifled through and pillaged -- the literal road they walk down is littered with human remains.
The Road has everything you would expect to see in a post-apocalyptic film: destroyed and deserted buildings and houses, unscrupulous and cannibalistic gangs and the repeated cycle of danger and solution. It is the grotesquely beautiful visual landscape and outstanding acting that make this film stand out among the others and make it a worthwhile -- albeit extremely depressing -- film.