The Road (2009) – John Hillcoat

 

We jump genres now in the Great Movies – 100 Years of film book, and I dive into Sci-Fi-Fantasy-Horror (though I would argue they could all be separate categories. The first title, Metropolis (such a gorgeous film), and almost all of its recommendations, I have reviewed previously for the blog, so the one recommendation left to take a look at for this title is The Road.

John Hillcoat directs us through a rather dismal, and dystopian post-apocalyptic world, using the novel by Cormac McCarthy as his guide. A nearly unrecognizable cast, amongst them Guy Pearce, Charlize Theron, and Robert Duvall, so covered in muck and grind are they to be almost indiscernible, is led by the always reliable, and dedicated performer, Viggo Mortensen.

Everything in this world is gritty and dirty, its all washed out greys, there is almost no colour, and we tend to only see it in flashbacks, the greyness of everything robs the film of almost all hope, it’s intentionally  dismal and depressing. The Man (Mortensen) and the Boy (Codi Smit-McPhee) struggle to keep one another safe as they try to make their way to the coast, clinging to the hope of perhaps finding a better life.

The world itself is dying, there are no more animals, the trees are dying out, and the last of civilization has degraded into refugees and roving gangs, with the fear of cannibalism hanging over everyone.

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For the Man and the Boy, their losses and their hunger haunt them, and even the tiny sliver of hope they do have seems intent on slipping away. Nightly, Man is haunted by the life he has lost, as well as the Woman (Theron), who could no longer conceive of living in the world as it falls apart, she longs to do more than simply survive. Their love may not keep this pair of travellers safe, but it binds them to one another as they face dangers and fear, stumbling from horror to horror, and even a moments of joy, as their need for life keeps driving them on, seemingly to their inevitable end.

They are distrustful of everyone they meet, and usually with good reason. Despite their aloneness, they crave more comfort and companionship than they are afforded in one another. Humans are social animals, and as the world dies around them, so to do our characters begin what may be their final descent.

And if your hope if taken away in such a place, what else do you have left? Can you still be a good man if you’re confronted with the need to fight for your survival and everyone you encounter seems to want to kill you or steal everything you have? Or is it enough just to live?

This is a dark and beautiful film about what it means to be human, and whether or not we can hold onto who we are when faced with adversity. And while it is amazing, it is also so dark, and yes, depressing, that it’s a film I won’t be revisiting very often.

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