The Road

I finally got around to watching The Road (2009), a film directed by John Hillcoat and based on Cormac McCarthy's haunting 2006 novel of the same name, which I read last month. Both are good, mostly for different reasons. The film stars Viggo Mortensen, whose character and this everyday Joe's son are on a road and headed south through a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Pockets of survivors have turned to cannibalism and mangy gangs rove about in search of food and fuel. This world is every nuance of grey, though less so than in McCarthy's book, which gives the reader little respite from the abysmal glumness. The film, as a commercial product, of course is not the novel, and this is particularly evident in how the film breaks away from that suffering and hopelessness relentlessly depicted in the book. The film does this with flashbacks to happier times—or at least less dismal. Too many viewers would've been put off if the film were as despairing as the novel. After all, film audiences need breaks; readers just have to dog-ear a page and return to it later.

Charlize Theron plays the role of wife and soon-to-be mother, who ultimately cannot bear the fear and horror of this new world and so she succumbs to it. That was back then, before "the road" and at a time when some color, the film shows us, was able to permeate the thickening gloom. Robert Duvall, Molly Parker and Guy Pearce also make appearances, threadbare and grimy. The kid actor wasn't great but had his moments. Viggo was Viggo, in a role ideal for him. It's touching, like the book. Here's a man that loves his son so much there's nothing he won't do to keep him alive and pushing forward, even if this means showing him the very darkest sides of nature and humanity, so long as it's counterbalanced by the light within. All in all, a good movie that sticks closely to the book while adding imagery to the vision McCarthy already brilliantly described in words.