A moving, truly gritty, post-apocalyptic drama, ‘The Road’ follows a father and son as they negotiate their way through the harsh nightmare of a suburban wasteland in the not too distant future. We are never told what catastrophe has brought about the decline of human civilisation, but we do know on thing; life as we know it, does not exist any more.
Father and Son move through this landscape literally fighting to survive every day; danger comes from all sides; the freezing cold (we never see sun in the entire movie- the sky is always grey); sickness, earthquakes, lack of clean water, it is as if the whole earth is falling apart; dry dead trees in the forest are likely to crash down randomly because they have no roots and no water to sustain them. And of course, the biggest threat of all: other human beings.
The Road is populated by two kinds of people; other travellers, moving alone, fighting to survive, and gangs of cannibals capturing the weak and using them as food.
For me this is the central theme of the movie; the break down of communities – in ‘the road’ you are either on your own, or part of the group of bad guys. The thing that struck me instantly about this film, is the almost total isolation these characters experience- you either travel on your own, always on edge, or you join up with the powerful and exploit other people for your survival.
The story of the movie is itself structured around a series of meetings with other people; each meeting the father and the son have a choice: Trust- be compassionate, share food and shelter and give help, or Suspicion – do not share, survive, fight, run away. Each decision has different results, different reasons, sometimes you just have to fight, sometimes you regret not helping.
Viggo Mortenson (Lord of the Rings, Eastern Promises) and Kobi Smit-Mcphee (Romulus, My Father) both give excellent performances as the hardened protector father and the soft-hearted son who is wise beyond his years; the boy is the voice of compassion but the father is the will for survival. Charlize Theron (Monster, North Country) also does an excellent turn as the distraught mother who does not want to bring her child into this terrible new world.
The film is beautifully shot with breathtaking scenery, they shot much of it in real abandoned towns throughout the states and it gives a true sensation of eeriness to realise that most of the places you are seeing really do exist; whole towns that have been abandoned and left to fall apart because their populations could not afford to live their any more.
This is certainly not a ‘feel good’ movie, but it makes you feel good in other ways – it is a pleasure to watch something so well made that it draws you in and you feel as if you are there with the characters, and, if you let it, it could force you to ask some hard questions: What would you do in the same situation? Would you protect your family at all costs, at the expense of others? How would you survive in a place where everything else is dying?
Reviewed by: Katharine Phyn
Cast: Charlize Theron, Viggo Mortensen, Guy Pearce
Directed by: John Hillcoat
Run time: 119 minutes TBC
Film censorship: TBC
Trailer censorship: TBC
Country of origin: USA