Tuesday, 26 January 2010
Cormac McCarthy’s bleak post-apocalyptic thriller The Road was a surprise bestseller – spare, tender and devastating. Here Australian director John Hillcoat (The Proposition) faithfully recreates that story for the screen. A father (Viggo Mortensen) and son (Kodi Smit-McPhee from Romulus My Father) wander across an America that has been destroyed by some unnamed disaster. Ruined cities and dead forests are devoid of life, and where life survives it’s in the form of cannibal gangs who hunt human meat.
Into this grey world the boy has been born, and now the dying father is teaching to him to survive as they head towards the ocean and perhaps some kind of salvation. The future of kindness, humanity and hope all rest on the boy’s half-starved shoulders. It’s heart-wrenching, and flashbacks to the boy’s dead mother (Charlize Theron) underline the fact that even good people give up on this wretched existence.
At times The Road is almost unbearably tense and yes, bleak. But the experience is a beautiful and rewarding one, heightening our sense of how precious life is, and what we may lose if we destroy the conditions of our existence. And yes, there is hope.
(This review first appeared in edition #346 of The Big Issue.