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Review: The Road by DrChocolate


As Luke said in the previous This Week in Movies, “this is storytelling at it’s finest.” I wholeheartedly agree. To frame my review of this superb film I’ll give you some insight into me – I’m a father. I have two sons. I love them more than it is possible to describe. When I read the book we were still waiting for our second to be born – so I was a father of one son, like the main character. Undoubtedly this has colored my opinion of the movie and the book. Due to this, and without any qualms, I freely admit that I sobbed my way through the book, and now the movie. It was impossible for me to not embed myself, and my sons, into this story; impossible to not see my son’s face in the face of The Boy and to ponder what I would do if I were The Man. In that way, this movie is devastating, it’s uplifting, it is hopeful, haunting, bleak, and beautiful.

For those not in the know, “The Road” follows an unnamed father and son traveling across a perilous US that has been blackened and destroyed by an unspecified disaster. The road is fraught with nightmare encounters with roving, violent gangs, unscrupulous thieves, cannibals and every other horror imaginable. As humanity and morality disintegrates around them the man tries to instill and keep compassion and decency alive in the boy, they strive to carry they fire.

Viggo Mortensen and newcomer Kodi Smit-McPhee are inspired as the Man and Boy. Their father-son relationship is tender and believable. Mortensen, with his distinctive weary intellectualism, is superb as a father desperate to keep protect his son from evil. The scene where Mortensen instructs his son on how to properly commit suicide with a pistol (in order to avoid fates worse than death) is particularly crushing. In turn Smit-McPhee is excellent as the story’s embodiment of innocence and charity, of the flame that needs to be protected. In truth some of the more haunting and nightmarish scenes I’ve ever seen are in this movie – from the house with the cellar, to the thief on the beach, to the flashbacks with the Man and his wife (an immensely effective Charlize Theron). However, the soul of the film is that one can remain “good” in the face of such evil and inhumanity, and it is huge. It is encompassing, and though it is nestled in one of the more frightening celluloid landscapes I’ve experienced, it is inspirational and powerful and alive.

Director John Hillcoat (who’s feature debut was the disturbingly violent but outstanding Australian western The Proposition), with his stars, and crew, has crafted what, to me, amounts to a masterpiece. Granted he was blessed with the best piece of fiction I’ve read in at least a decade, maybe ever; but he still was able to turn Cormac McCarthy’s sparse, aptly vague prose into a visually stunning, emotionally rending, inspiring film. There are additional bonus points to be handed out to an evocative score by legendary musician Nick Cave (who penned the script for The Proposition) and to a stable of brilliant, smaller performances including an almost unrecognizable Robert Duvall and Michael Williams as a wretchedly desperate thief. The Road is a very difficult watch, that is certain, but I will recommend it to everyone – without hesitation for, ultimately, it is one of the most beautiful movies I have seen about hope, humanity, and love. Read this book. Watch this film.

(Complete Side Rant Alert: I still can’t comprehend how the Weinstein brothers allowed this movie to be ignored and overlooked. The book was a NY Times #1 bestseller. It was a part of the Oprah Book Club. It won a freaking Pulitzer. Millions of people read it and instead of a wide release with a heavy awards season push (which I’m sure would have garnered it a few important nods) they dumped it into a few dozen theaters and let it run for like 4 weeks and then pulled it. What is the thought process behind this idiocy? Who did that help? It’s a superb movie based on a popular, well-regarded novel and it was completely abandoned by it’s parent company. Meanwhile Old Dogs debuts the same weekend on 3400+ screens. Bah.)