Movie Review: The Road
directed by John Hillcoat
As I mentioned before, I feel so strongly about Cormac McCarthy’s story that I feared a movie version could do nothing but bring it down. That would have been an atrocity. It is this fear that kept me out of the theater for so long. To my great relief, though, I am happy to report that this is a movie I gladly recommend to anyone, regardless of their interest in the end of times subject.
Mr. Hillcoat takes just enough liberties with the story to keep it fresh for those who have read the book, but not so much that he subverts its meaning. Most of the scenes are there, but the order is slightly jumbled. There is a lot more dialogue than in the book (Bill, how can you tell without the quotation marks? Shut up, you!). He flirted several times with taking the story in a different direction such that it kept me tense, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was thinking that given the nature of the setting, an approach used in Beowolf or 300 might be best, but while the special effects were spot on, it was the acting of Viggo Mortensen that makes the movie. That man was born to play the role of the father.
Given the number of times I’ve read the book, I was surprised to gain a new insight into the story: The catastrophe had been going on for nearly a decade! I think actually seeing the boy brought this home for me, from his birth through to the age of what I guess to be nearly ten years. Think about that. Ten years of nothing but constant and ever worsening struggle. I don’t think I could have done it. This is why the boy is so important to the story. He gives meaning to survival, the reason for the father to keep fighting. Without the boy, it truly would have been pointless.
This gets to the point of survival. I believe those whose had their children by their side at the outbreak were more likely to survive. True, in the short term, they were disadvantaged: their movement was encumbered; extra food was required, but little work could be expected in return; and, the constant fear of what may happen. But that made you fight hard, gave you a reason for going on. The Road is ultimately an optimistic story because of this. Because as long as the flame survives, there is hope.