Tuesday, January 12, 2010

THE ROAD - Review

Directed by John Hillcoat
Starring Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smith-McPhee

There is a flash of light then, a series of concussions.  The earth is left blanketed in ash.  The few survivors are left with little recourse but to scavenge like wild animals for food and shelter.  No one can be trusted.  Cannibalism has become a very real threat.  The earth quakes and the trees fall. 

The real beauty of Cormac McCarthy's novel "The Road" lies in its simplicity.  He is intentionally vague about what exactly has occurred, choosing instead to focus on the lives of his two main characters in this harsh, new terrain.  They are The Man and The Boy.  Father and son.  Even their relationship is established with elegant, minimalist dialogue:

Can I ask you something?

Yes. Of course you can.

What would you do if I died?

If you died I would want to die too.

So you could be with me?

Yes. So I could be with you.


The two of them are traveling south, towards the ocean.  The Boy hopes for warmth and human contact there.  The Man, singularly devoted to the Boy, simply hopes for enough time to teach him how to survive without him.  A bleak novel to be sure and the film, directed by John Hillcoat, is as faithful as any of it's fans could want. 

So why did I leave the theatre wanting?

I think I just believe "The Road" to be one of those rare, un-filmable books. It relies so heavily on a reader's emotional participation with its characters and environment that any re-telling, no matter how well told, will lose personal impact.  This, of course, is no fault of the films.  The visuals are striking and both Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smith are spot on as the leads.  What we're talking about here is the difference between going through something and hearing about going through something. 

I intend to see "The Road" again, as I have a feeling I will appreciate it a bit more the second go-round.  But for the time being, I'll recommend you skip the film and go right for its source material.


1 comment:

  1. As with No Country for Old Men I anticipate that I'll only be able to read the book after seeing the movie since McCarthy writes the way he writes. In which case I'll probably really love the movie until I read the book.