A masterful take on the post-apocalyptic genre that finds moments of genuine warmth despite its ultra-bleak setting and aesthetic, based on a book by Cormac McCarthy, and featuring outstanding performances from Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee.
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall
Plot: America is a grim, gray shadow of itself after a catastrophe. A man and his young son wander through this post-apocalyptic world, trying to keep the dream of civilization alive.
Awards: Nom. for Golden Lion (Venice)
Subject Matter: Slightly Dark – Survival, Father and Son
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
I’m not sure if this film ever got a theatrical release in Singapore, but I remember seeing John Hillcoat’s The Proposition (2005), an Australian western, around the same time as part of a film studies class, and thus wanted to see The Road, but somehow didn’t. In any case, thanks to MUBI, I can now tick this off my list.
I find The Road to be a masterful take on the post-apocalyptic movie, a genre I particularly love because well, I’ve constantly found myself drawn to films about the hopelessness of the human condition.
Adapted from a book by Cormac McCarthy (of the Coens’ No Country for Old Men fame), The Road finds moments of genuine warmth despite the ultra-bleak setting and aesthetic.
This is, of course, thanks to outstanding performances from Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee (who would later star opposite Chloe Grace Moretz in 2010’s Let Me In), who play Man and Son respectively trying to survive a hostile environment irreversibly damaged by natural disasters.
“We have to keep carrying the fire.”
As cannibalism becomes rampant and vicious gangs set up against one another in a battle for limited resources, the stragglers have to play hide and seek. It’s kill or be killed, the hunger games to end all hunger games.
However, The Road is a more meditative and existential work than one might give it credit for as Hillcoat spends a great deal of time with the father and his child as they ruminate about life and death.
While the fear of death is ever-present, threats are sporadic though they punctuate the stillness and silences sharply. Ultimately, The Road is about being a parent and letting go; likewise, it is also about being a child and growing up. I think Hillcoat has successfully located this in the heart of the narrative.