Director: John Hillcoat
Story by: Cormac McCarthy
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Guy Pearce
Running time: 119 minutes
“Each day is more grey than the day before, eventually all the trees will have fallen”
Set in a post-apocalyptic world where the women and children are raped and murdered and cannibalism is the norm, The Road, is the tragic tale of a father and son’s journey away from their family home and into the wilderness. A journey without much direction, a journey without much hope. We know they aim to head south, we know they aim to head to the coast. What we don’t know, is why. I presume, they hope it will lead them to a better life, a more humane life. This is, however, pure conjecture as one of the main issues with this movie is the lack of clarity. Frequently we are introduced to ideas and events only for them to be forgotten just as quickly as they were introduced.
The movie opens with a view of how wonderful life can be, with a view of the beautiful intricacies of life; the way the evening sun dapples your partner’s skin, the way the breeze glistens through nature, the way life delicately interacts. However, the door closes on that life rather quickly only for us to be shown the sheer destruction and chaos of the present day. The trees are ragged and rotten, the plants lifeless. The world once full of colour is now saturated with nothing more than miserable greys and blacks. For the next five or ten minutes the time line jumps around trying to provide back story and emotional connection while setting up the premise of the movie. This left me feeling like the movie was splintered and disjointed. The opening ten minutes of a movie are arguably the most important. These minutes are where you grab your viewer’s attention. You draw them in and you don’t let them go again. That is what's supposed to happen but for me, the director John Hillcoat, tried to do too much in this brief opening window and the movie suffered for it. Subsequently, I struggled to form an emotional connection with these nameless characters and so their trials and tribulations felt lacklustre. Charlize Theron plays The Man’s wife as seen throughout his memories, however we do not see enough of her to really become attached or even for her character to have much impact on the story at all only adding to the lacklustre feel.
In parts this movie reminded me of Mad Max: Fury Road. Obviously they both cast Charlize Theron, albeit with a much smaller role in this movie, but the persistent threat of being caught was the main similarity. Both movies have tense periods followed by the calm. However, whereas Fury Road is an intense action movie with fantastical quirky set design, soundtrack and premise, The Road is purely about the emotions and turmoil of the two individual characters at hand, neither of whom come across as particularly likeable on screen. The Man is cowardly and selfish, The Son, while humane and caring, ends up coming across as whiney and annoying.
Despite the negatives I have raised so far, there are a few positives. The movie is wonderfully shot and it manages to find the small amounts of beauty in death and destruction, assuming you’re willing to perceive it. The vast landscapes, cast in varying shades of grey, remind me of the great Ansel Adams. Powerful and effective. The story itself, written by Cormac McCarthy, might not be a great story to adapt to film but I’m positive that it would be a great story to read. I believe it just isn’t a story that naturally lends itself to the big screen format. Despite all that I have said here today I must also convey that this movie was highly recommended to me. I was told of how powerfully heart wrenching it was and so I must conclude that for me it didn’t hit the spot but it might speak to you on a different level. It’s worth watching the opening half hour for the visuals alone and so I would say check it out but if you’re not emotionally invested after the first half an hour it probably isn't worth spending the next hour and a half hoping for it to get better.