Road, The (2009)

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.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review #2,254

Dir. John Hillcoat
2009 | USA | Drama | 111 mins | 2.35:1 | English
NC16 (passed clean) for some violence, disturbing images and language

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)
Source: FilmNation

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Slightly Dark – Survival, Father and Son
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

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. 

Grade: A-



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