The Road

Before I write this review there is something that i have to admit. I had absolutely no intention of seeing this film. I thought the trailer looked quite lame and sappy and not as gritty and depressing as I’d heard the book was supposed to be. I’d also heard other rumblings with regards to deviations from the book to make it more appealing to a different demographic, ie. all the ladies. So due to the apparent ‘hollywoodisation’ of the film, and what clearly looked to be a happy ending from the trailer, my principles and loving everything about film told me to give it a miss and go and see “Alvin and the Chipmunks” part 2 instead.

However, I just missed the squeakual so ‘The Road’ it was. Now if you are unfamiliar with the premise of The Road, here’s a brief outline. In what could very well be the not too distant past, present or future, some undescribed apocalyptic event has taken place and now fires rage, the sun is blocked and no life or crops can grow. Trees fall and food is scarce. We follow Viggo Mortensen’s character, who is simply known in the credits as ‘Man’, and his young son, ‘Kid’, on their journey on the desolate roads as they attempt to head south to the sea and a warmer climate in the hope for survival in this harsh new world. This is no easy feat of course. The Roads are a dangerous place filled with gangs and outlaws who only think of survival and food…human or otherwise! But to say this is simply a “road” movie (sorry) is not doing it any justice at all. It is so much more than that. But first things first…

I thought the road was brilliant. It was just so bloody dark. I wish I had read the book to see if it was similar in tone, but the darkness just never let up. Apart from the flashbacks, every scene is grey. The people are dirty and nothing is clean. The only time we see a natural bright light, is when things are burning down. So how ironic it is that our main characters look at this sight with wonder and awe in memory of times past such as when the sun came up, but at the same time they are watching the slow destruction of mankind.

Secondly, Viggo Mortensen is fantastic. Again, I would like to read the book (or have someone tell me through the interweb…) to see how faithful his portrayal is, but I thought his effort as “The Man” was excellent. His determination, motivation and exasperation ooze through the screen as we watch The Man deteriorate through every scene. He knows that he will not be around forever, and his sole purpose is to prepare his son for his absence. It could have been so easy to portray The Man as a strong, fearless character who will stop at nothing to get to where he wants. I mean, he is, but Mortensen has a real fragility about him. You can tell that he is just as scared in this new world and everything in it, just as much as his son is. There are some real touching moments between Mortensen and the boy. Little actions such as kissing his son’s forehead or washing his hair say so much about their relationship in a way that words could not.

And thirdly, the score. I usually stay to watch the credits in most films, but on this occasion I had more of a reason to as to find out who composed it, as it was startlingly eerie and extremely poignant. The original music was written by Nick Cave (of the bad seeds) and Warren Ellis. If you ever want to hear a score that makes mixes hauntingly beautiful sounds with depressive undertones at the same time, here it is. John Hillcoats direction and the score work in tandem perfectly.

If I had to nitpick about anything in the film, it would have to be the supporting cast. I thought the Kodi-Smit McPhee (I wished his parents named me!) was solid enough as the kid, but at times I found him a little too whiny. Annoyingly so at times, as he tried to be the voice of reason in most situations. Whereas Man would be tough and show no mercy to anyone, whether it be an old blind man or a traveler who only ten minutes earlier had robbed them, Kid would always insist his father show leniency and continue to be one of “the good guys”. It is beyond me how after everything the kid would have seen in his short years, that he would be so…well, so nice. I was dubious enough of everyone walking down the ko san road in Bangkok, let alone to people in a post apocalyptic world where you could potentially be the main course. I also had a problem with the wife and mother, played by Charlize Theron. Whereas Man thinks of nothing but his son, Woman seems to be suffering from some kind of exaggerated mutant version of post natal depression. Some might say she is the realist in the story, but I would just say she was a real downer. She is constantly moaning about how they have no chance of surviving another winter, or how they shouldn’t have even had him. I can only think she is like this to accentuate Man’s good qualities and to highlight his commitment to his son even more.

I also had a problem with one of the cameos. Don’t be fooled by Guy Pearce’s name on the poster. In a roundabout way, his character does have a fairly significant role to play in protecting the future of mankind, but he is barely in the film five minutes! So rather than taking in the last five to ten minutes of the film and digesting what I had seen whilst watching the climax, I found myself thinking “Oh that’s Guy Pearce! I forgot he was supposed to be in this movie. Hang on, where the f@ck has he been for the last hour and forty minutes, wasn’t he in the trailer? Why have they given him dodgy teeth?” However, like I said, this is all just nitpicking as the pro’s of this film FAR outweigh any minor points that might have slightly bugged me.

At its core, ‘The Road’ is a film about the relationship between a father and son. But I think it also presents us with a chance to reflect on our own lives and think about the relationships that are important to us and what we would do to protect the ones we love. It’s also about the appreciation of what we have. Things such as a pair of shoes or a can of coke might seem like trivialities to us now, but if we continue the way we are now, they might be like gold dust in the future. So, from this day on I will treat every day like it is my last. I will enjoy every meal or can of soda like it is the best meal I’ve had or it’s the amber nectar itself. And I will appreciate every movie I see. I will savour every image and try to analyse every film like it is Citizen Kane or Pulp Fiction itself. Well, that is unless I do finally get around to seeing Alvin and the Chipmunks 2.

Categories: Film, Reviews

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