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The Road (2009)

"Before viewing" talks don't have spoilers, but since there's no "After viewing" talk for this one, comments may have spoilers. More»» by Randy Heffner

Is the film worth your time?

Set in a bleak and barren post-apocalyptic world, The Road intensely and insightfully explores the nature of goodness, hope, and love. How dark can your world get before you lose hope? At what point do you lose the human qualities of goodness and morality and descend to the state of an animal surviving? How small grows the circle of those you will care for? Placing us at the dark far end of the continuum of life circumstances, almost unrecognizably distant from the relatively comfortable lives that most of us lead, The Road depicts the relationships between and struggles of a father, a mother, their son, and the people they encounter. If there is hope and love and goodness to be found even in the darkest and coldest reaches of life, how much more may they be found in our lives today? We can take away from the film’s dark world strength to be light in this one.

The Road is very well made, with very strong performances by Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee (as father and son). The film is quite worth the time — but don’t focus on the film’s darkness. It is for good reason that The Road never tells us the nature of the apocalypse or what caused it. These are irrelevant because the film is not exploring the end of the world. The film creates a very dark world as a crucible for exploring human character, motivation, and choice. The thing is to see where The Road finds light in its bleak world, to magnify and learn what makes it light, and to come away a bit better able to live the light.

Those that have read Cormac McCarthy’s novel, The Road, will wonder how well the film embodies the book. In its overall tone and visual appearance, the film could hardly do better at capturing the feel of the novel. The father-son relationship carries over very well in both its tenderness and tension. Most of the major events are represented in the film, although one or two events are expanded upon and intensified. The single thing most missing is a translation to film of the last two paragraphs of the novel, which are very important to novel’s vision. If you’ve not read the book, see the film, then read the last 12 pages of the novel. Then re-read the last two paragraphs of the novel. Then re-read the last paragraph of the novel.

A father, wrapped in a worn and dirty parka, awakens from a sunny dream and immediately reaches out to touch his son beside him on the ground. In the waking world, there is no sun, only clouds and cold. To find food and perhaps warmth, the two are traveling south among dead trees, ash-covered landscape, and the wrecks and ruins of what was once civilization. They encounter few people along the way, and they never know who they can trust. The constant questions are why, how, and in what attitude will they continue traveling the road. Running time: 111 min.

The Road is a dark film in its themes and, periodically, in its onscreen content. The darkness is appropriate to the film’s post-apocalyptic setting. Be aware that the film includes human remains, evidence (but not direct depiction) of cannibalism, talk of suicide, and tense scenes of humans being threatened or attacked. There is a small bit of language and full rear male nudity.

  • Director: John Hillcoat
  • Screenplay: Joe Penhall, based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy
  • Leads: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall
  • Cinematography: Javier Aguirresarobe
  • Music: Nick Cave, Warren Ellis


NOTE: Although Before viewing talks don't have spoilers, comments below MAY have spoilers
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