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Tagline: “In a moment the world changed forever.” And not for the better, let me tell you. Or, let The Road tell you. Yeah that. I'd just cock it up.
Premise: A nameless father and son roam a post apocalyptic USA, trying to get to the sea. Based on the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name.
Delivery: The Road has a foreboding sense of dread from the brief, beautiful, opening scene. With nature vivacious, colourful and proud, Vigo and Charlize looking silently at each other, smouldering and in love. Nick Cave's understated but haunting score combines perfectly with the waves of image, to gently poke your sleeping brain, whispering, “this is just a dream”. It is a dream, and the waking reality you're then thrown into is one so grim as to almost make the following two hour film unbearably so. Almost.
As one of the best books I've ever read, by the brilliant Cormac McCarthy, I was first in line to see The Road in the cinema, excitedly and impatiently waiting the year or two between reading the book and release of the film. John Hillcoat, directing, had my attention after The Proposition (2005), which was brutal and believable and I hoped for the same with The Road. McCarthy is no stranger to shocking, and stories devoid of hope. If you've ever read Child of God or Blood Meridian, you might actually find The Road strangely optimistic. What is unusual is for a big budget Hollywood film to make such a novel and keep it true to source. It really works.
This is post apocalyptic cinema done to full effect. There's no love story, really, there's no wonderful sense of adventure often peddled in these films to create a desire in the viewer to take part in the world of The Road. As The Man (Mortensen) says, “the big fear is cannibalism.” It really is. A world of fear, and as this tiny family unit navigate it, their fragile existence always in the balance, the story is essentially a road trip through the destruction.
There is not much by way of saving grace, only the love between a father and his son. The moments of heartbreaking human interaction on their trip, when the innocence of this child doesn't fit with the horror and brutality of the only world he has even known, are both beautiful and sad. As this last little light of hope flickers delicately in the howling wind of reality all the viewer can do is watch, and hope it doesn't go out.
Bedsit it? Initially I wasn't overawed by The Road, thinking it was good but not great. But some years and several viewings later, I can honestly say that was only because I had such high hopes for it. And hope is what saves the film from relentless misery. It is sad, real and moving, yes; but also hopeful, in its own way. 9/10