The Road

 

“Do you ever think about dying?”
“In times like these I never allow myself the luxury.”

Beautifully acted, directed and written, The Road is non-the-less one of those films that is easy to admire but difficult to say you actually actively liked. The tone is relentless, the sense of impeding tragedy all pervasive. On a double bill with Children Of Men this is a film that would be likely to drive the staunchest of Presbyterian’s to drink.

Virtually plot-less, The Road is a character piece that would live or die on the strength of its lead performances. Fortunately in Viggo Mortensen and the even more astonishing Kodi Smit-McPhee the central father / son pairing is utterly believable from start to finish. There is a sense that both would die for the other, although crucially one always wishes that the other will die before him in order to save himself the torments that would undoubtedly come. Instead the film is a series of encounters along the titular road that reveal the son’s remaining humanity as the father sinks further into despair at what he knows will inevitably come.

These encounters reinforce the films message, that the breakdown of society is the ultimate fate of man if the world began to die. They could survive if they banded together, if they remained “The Good Guys” but this is unlikely to happen. Only one encounter along the way reveals a person who retains the basic fundamentals of human decency of the man and Boy, everyone else is just another part of the environment to contend with.

It’s this relentless sense of foreboding that creates the real driving force of the film, a chance series of encounters with bandits, random thieves and more disturbingly cannibals (a scene in a live larder just creep too far into uncomfortable territory). There is the real sense that they may be killed (or worse, death may be a positive way out at times) at any time, although towards the end there is a possibility of hope.

It’s a fine film, but like many it’s hard to recommend as everyone needs to make up there mind as whether two hours of depression for a brief sliver of hope are worth it. Technically it’s superb, the films de-saturated look and physicality (the film has obviously been given a technical makeover to facilitate certain scenes, but these are minimal) further enhancing the feels of the film – the only other colour we ever see is red, be it blood left on the ground or fire. However more than anything the reason to see this is acting which is universally superb across the board.

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