The Road, an adaptation of the 2006 Cormac McCarthy novel, is the grim tale of a man taking care of his son in a post-apocalyptic world. They encounter several obstacles during their journey, from malnutrition to cannibalistic nomads.
In The Road, we're never told the name of the father, his son, his late wife, or even where they are. We know they're in the United States, based on maps they reference, and we know that they live in a cold place, which is the reason that they're leaving and heading south, but those are the only vague details we're given. But it doesn't matter. The journey of these two specific people may be the focus of the film, but the overall ideas seem to be survival and humanity.
Survive is what they do, at all costs. They often run, they hide, sometimes they kill, and they eat anything edible that they can find. The man's goal is to prepare his son for life on his own, because he knows that sooner rather than later, he's going to die. He lives for his son and nothing else.
There is an interesting clash of ideas with his wife. Where the man wants to persevere at all costs, the woman (who we see in flashbacks) sees no reason to live in torment, and would rather they all be dead, including the son. There's a scene where she asks her husband for permission to kill her son. If it weren't for him, she says, she would've already done it.The initial gut reaction is disgust, but in her mind this is the absolute best thing for her child, and her husband is cruel for stretching out their existence. She claims that she doesn't want to "just survive," which is exactly what the man spends the movie doing.
But despite everything they go through, he maintains his humanity, rarely wavering. Notice that I said "rarely." Throughout the movie, the son keeps asking if they're the good guys, to which the man always replies that they are. Despite being surrounded by evil men who perform evil deeds, they do not succumb. Despite the unavoidable bleakness of the entire ordeal, there is hope to be found in these characters.
The Road is harrowing, a word that I don't use lightly. It's difficult to not get attached to the man and son, nameless as they may be. I found myself in constant worry for their safety and smiling along with them at their triumphs. Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee do an excellent job of making you care for these two. Charlize Theron does a great job portraying a woman at such a bad place in her life that she thinks killing her own son is a humane idea. An assortment of stars, including some big names, show up along the way and help bring this dead world to life.
And what a world it is. Visually, it's completely stunning, despite being nothing but browns and grays. The sky is constantly overcast and the world seems to be suffering from nuclear winter, but there's something undeniably beautiful about it.
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