Distributed by: Dimension Films
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When The Road, a movie based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning 2006 novel by Cormac McCarthy, first appeared in theaters, there was very little promotion for the film. I saw maybe one or two promos for the movie the entire time it was playing. The movie had some appeal, but very little play time. It couldn't be found in any theaters near me. So when a friend offered to lend me a copy of The Road, I jumped at the chance to see what fans of the book have been talking about.
There are no names for the characters in the film, so bear with me on the brief synopsis. In The Road, Viggo Mortensen is Man, an individual who enters into survival mode after an unnamed cataclysmic event destroys Earth as we know it. My theory is that this event is actually the death throes of the Sun as fires begin erupting everywhere in the beginning of the film, unpredictable tremors take place and, as the film goes forward, the world seems to just keep getting colder. Anyway, Man is on a journey with his son, known only in this film as Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee). They are traveling southward in hopes of finding warmer climate.
Through Man's narration, we learn that the two have been traveling for quite some time and that their main concern is fuel for keeping warm, food and shoes for the protection of their feet as their journey is all on foot. According to Man, as food has run thin, cannibalism has become quite a worrisome prospect and Man and Boy must try to avoid the cannibalistic survivors along their journey, Through Man's flashbacks, we learn what has befallen this family from its very inception. We see Man with his wife, Woman (Charlize Theron), a loving couple who love being with each other, riding horses and playing music on their piano.
After the cataclysmic event, which takes place late in Woman's pregnancy, Woman becomes more and more despondent. Forced to give birth without any sort of medical attention and living a life based more on survival than anything else, Woman begins to think of ending it all. We learn that Woman eventually leaves, urging Man to take Boy and head south for warmth.
As the movie moves forward, we witness the lengths Man will go to in order to keep Boy safe. We see the problems the two are faced with along their journey and wonder what either one would do if they didn't have each other to rely on for survival (Boy relying on Man to keep him safe while Man relies on Boy to keep him sane and fighting for a purpose in life). As the two continue their journey across a desolate land, the viewer will find themselves wondering whether the two will ever find any sanctuary left on Earth to call home.
The fact that the movie lacks any names for the characters is poignant. The family portrayed in this film could be anyone. It allows the viewer to put themselves in the character's position. What would you do if the world was dying around you? Would you have the will to live? Would you have the will to survive just so another member of your family could live? Or would you find the strength to end it all before living became to much of a burden? The Road is one of those psychological dramas that are all too real in nature and cause one to question their strength and ability to endure in the aftermath of such a crisis.
Viggo Mortensen is one of the most underrated actors I have ever had the pleasure to watch in action. Mortensen is one of those actors who make you believe he is the character he is portraying, whether it be a lost king who is afraid of his destiny (Lord of the Rings), a brutal Navy SEALs training officer (G.I. Jane), a former violent criminal hiding from his past in order to find happiness in peace (A History of Violence), a well-known doctor of psychiatry (A Dangerous Method) or a tormented father desperately trying to keep his son alive and safe from harm as in this film. His face is so incredibly expressive, no lines need be spoken in this film for us to know the torment of this father and the joy he finds in his son despite their trials.
The underlying tone of paranoia is an important feature in The Road. Are the Man's fears about being followed justified or something born of being constantly on the move hoping to find a better life for Boy? Are the Boy's beliefs the silly yammerings of a child or something more profound and worth listening to?
The ending of this film is somewhat surprising and will have you thinking back to earlier moments in the movie wondering why you didn't see this end coming. I loved that. I sat there staring at the screen as the credits rolled realizing that I had known this was going to happen long before it did, rewinding in my mind's eye all of the foreshadowing clues presented to me throughout the film.
Having enjoyed watching The Road, I now must get my hands on the book. To all accounts, the movie was great, but the book was better. I will have to read The Road to see if this assessment is accurate. As far as I am concerned, The Road is a post-apocalyptic film with a dark and slightly depressing storyline not meant for fans of comedy or happy endings (I'm not giving anything away here - if the Sun dying is the reason for the destruction of the Earth, you know what the result is going to be even if it isn't depicted in this film.). That being said, this movie is well written, well performed, thought-provoking and definitely worth watching.