Review: The Road

After an unnamed apocalypse and the death of his wife, a man realizes he must take his young son south to warmer weather if they hope to survive. The Road chronicles their journey, with it's trials and tribulations. The Road was an interesting watch; I often found myself asking what I would do in similar situations. Sadly, it did not capture me emotionally and truly bring me into the story.

Rated: 3 / 5

What would you do if your life was suddenly torn apart and there was someone depending on you? Would you fight to survive? Would you retain your humanity in the fight? Or would you just check out? These are questions the main character (simply named "man" in the credits), played by Viggo Mortensen, must answer in brutal first person. After an unspecified apocalyptic event causes the downfall of American society, a husband and wife struggle to raise their son. When the wife disappears the husband sets out with his son to find a warmer place to live. The Road is the story of their travels as they encounter thieves, cannibals, and desperation.

The questions raised about how one might choose to survive in the bleakest of circumstances were interesting. And we're not only watching what the main character does through our eyes, we're seeing his actions through the eyes of his son, who he's trying to raise with pre-apocalyptic values. This constant reminder of pure ideal expressed in a child's black and white view of the world provides a wonderful intellectual tension against the backdrop of constant physical tension. The man must be pragmatic or die, but when is OK to kill to survive? When is it OK to let someone starve? We're defined by our actions; where is the line between "good guy" and "bad guy"?

As thought provoking as The Road is, it failed to make me care deeply about the characters. Director John Hillcoat gives us a monotony and sameness over the entire film with both the landscape and the characters. With the landscape it sets the mood and mostly works well, though a few instances of less dreary might have amped up the grey. With the characters it works less well. I never really get to know anything but the superficial about the main character, and certainly didn't connect with him. I suspect if not for Mortensen's performance I wouldn't have cared at all.

The Road is by no means a bad movie, but it isn't a great movie, either. I expect some people will connect more deeply with this movie than I did. For myself, I don't regret watching it but I don't see repeated viewings in my non-apocalyptic future.

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