Road, The


The Apocalypse appears to really suck

Main Cast: Viggo Mortenson, Charlize Theron

Director: John Hillcoat

Let’s pretend that you just went out to one of your favorite restaurants, ate too much and loved every bite, then came home to top off your evening with a movie.  Let’s pretend you weren’t smart enough to pick something light and fluffy.  Perhaps you were foolish enough to choose the movie adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.  If you did that you would be dumb like me!

Don’t get me wrong.  I am often greatly entertained by the morbid, the depressing, the dark, and grim.  Yeah, that didn’t come out quite right, but you know what I mean.  I like heavy drama.  But not this heavy.

The basic story is simple – father and son heading south to the coast after un-named apocalyptic events leave society in tatters.  Viggo Mortensen stars as the grizzled father trying to protect his son played by Kodi Smit-McPhee.  In flashback we see mother Charlize Theron and her solution to their dire predicament.  Along the way Robert Duvall and Guy Pearce (both unrecognizable) make appearances.

Good God this is the most depressing movie I think I’ve ever seen.  The combined effect of the looming spectres of cannibalism and suicide, the nearly dead landscape and the lead-heavy tone of the film make it excruciating.  Director John Hillcoat more assuredly wins “Biggest Buzz Kill of the Year”.

The single biggest problem with The Road is that there is not one bit of emotional relief.  I’m not talking about comic relief, but anything to lighten the mood for even a single moment.  There was potential late in the film with a scene involving a beetle – it could have been sort of wondrous and filled with meaning – but it was wasted by another episode of insanity, despair and desperation.

To top it off, the ending doesn’t fit.  It feels like a focus group ending rather than one true to the vision of the filmmakers.  Not that I was enjoying that vision, but I’m just sayin’ – this feels tacked on.

I have no idea how the film compares to the book.  If it’s loyal to the source material in both substance and tone I can assure you I’ll never read it.  No Country for Old Men, another McCarthy adaptation, makes me think that there is room within the framework of the written source for some kind of lightness to cut the depression.

The Road looks good – the desolate cinematography is really beautiful in its own way, and Viggo does pretty well with his role, but the whole thing ends up being suffocatingly heavy and depressing.  I may need to watch Old School just to balance myself out.

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