Review: The Road Leads to Depressingly Wonderful Places

Title: The Road
Studio: The Weinstein Company
Director: John Hillcoat
Actors: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce

Filmmakers basing movies around the end of the world is nothing new. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, The Terminator series, The Omega Man, Armageddon, 2012…the list goes on and on. While every film puts its own unique take on Earth’s final days, they all seem to dwell in the realm of the fantastic – that is, every film portrays circumstances and events completely contrasted from our present world.

There’s nothing wrong with presenting a larger-than-life interpretation, but for those who appreciate the idea of a realistic and dare I say – subtle – approach to the end of the world, there’s The Road. Chances are you missed this when it came to theatres; worldwide, the movie only took in $24.7 million. Now that it’s on DVD/Blu-ray, you’ve got the opportunity to take in one of the best post-apocalypse movies you’ve never seen: assuming you’ve got the stomach for it.

What am I coyly hinting at? Well, this movie is bleak. I mean, a wrist-slitter after a Requiem for a Dream marathon, bleak. The cinematography is a canvas of only greys and browns, and the content isn’t much brighter. The Road is a story of a father and son wandering across the United States in search of the coast, and hopefully, some sort of safe haven. Pretty much everything was annihilated during the apocalypse, so in a world without plants and animals, food is the ultimate scarcity, and cannibalism is a common danger. Probably not what you would call a ‘feel good’ flick.

While there are a few ‘big names’ in this film, their roles are minor and fleeting. The movie is almost a two-person performance in its entirety, with fantastic acting by Viggo Mortensen and newcomer, Kodi Smit-McPhee. I normally loathe children in movies, but Kodi did an amazing job and deserves my temporary non-hatred. Spend it wisely, young one.

What’s intriguing about The Road (and sets it apart from many movies of this genre) is its complete independence from the actual Armageddon itself. Other than a brief allusion to bombs going off during the opening monologue, there are no visuals and no insights into the ‘why’ or ‘how’ of doomsday. Those questions are not the focus of the film, and would serve only to distract from the real meat of the story. This is a film about a father who lost his wife and having to cope with his son growing up in a desolate world. It’s about the will to survive and scavenging for even the smallest morsel of food. It’s about fearing for your life and hiding from roaming gangs of cannibals. But more than all of this, it’s about hanging onto hope and your humanity when you have every reason to forsake both. Yeah. Heavy shit.

As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, I loved this movie. You definitely have to know what you’re signing up for, but for those who can endure a fairly depressing near-two hours, it offers all sorts of rewards for the patient viewer.

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