Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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The Road

Film #367


A post-apocalyptic tale of a man and his son trying to survive by any means possible.

Year 2, Film #2

THE REVIEW: The Road is very brutal. It shows things with such veracity that, while just one interpretation of an apocalypse, feels like a very real version of the apocalypse. Unlike World War Z there isn’t any centralized system trying to fight and survive against the onslaught of problems (cold weather, lack of food, cannibals and other forms of theft and murder). It isn’t even like the TV show Revolution where there’s little villages scattered about banding together to survive; it’s pretty much dog-eat-dog - you’re on your own. And what The Road does best is show how it affects, positively and negatively, Man (Viggo Mortensen) and Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) - names are never given in the film.

Often there’s a father-son relationship at the center of a film and you see how the boy looks up to his father and wants to be just like him. Or he’s a rebel and wants to do things differently, to get away from a mean and overbearing dad. In either situation, chances are the relationship between the two isn’t all that important, especially when you compare it to something like The Road. Right away you understand the importance of everything and how nothing should be taken for granted. Within ten minutes the father reminds his son what the best way to commit suicide is. The world they live in is full of “bad guys” and like many families before them, including Woman (Charlize Theron) - Man’s wife and boy’s mother - have chosen to take a relatively painless way to end their life. It’s hard to imagine where suicide is an acceptable social practice, let alone seeing a world in which a father constantly reminds his son how best to do it. And yet in The Road, seeing how bad things are, an idea like that doesn’t seem too far-fetched. Many films often show an apocalypse where it’s possible to retain at least some of your old life; The Road isn’t so optimistic. And while I hope at least the reality depicted isn’t what might happen, the film does an extremely great job at making us believe what we see.

What it doesn’t do such a great job at is story. The film is based off of the novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy (previously wrote the basis for No Country for Old Men) and details are quite lacking. Not only do we never find out why there was an apocalypse in the first place (what caused it, how quickly did things fall apart, etc.) but the events in the present day seem similarly superficial. That however isn’t my main criticism though. I got over the fact that I wouldn’t know why all this was happening because the film doesn’t try to have that deep of a story. What it does attempt to do is show the father-son relationship. All the events revolve around these two characters and what effect it has on them. And that’s why I feel there’s something missing. For a character film there really isn’t much character development. Sure we see that the father cares deeply for his son, and the son relies on and tries to look out for his father. But we get all this early on in the film and it remains the same throughout. Nothing really changes between the two; we don’t see a real impact or change on the relationship. There is an obvious change at the end (one I won’t spoil, but I will say it fits the rest of the film) but we aren’t really given time to linger and see where things go from there. It isn’t to say there are no great character scenes. Kodi Smit-McPhee delivers a line, “Yes I am,” so powerfully that it brings everything to a halt (really is one of the best moments in the film). But overall there’s a lot of room for improvement.

If you’re looking for any kind of happy or upbeat film, The Road is definitely not for you. Then again, that should be blatantly obvious from the trailer. What the trailer doesn’t really prepare you for is just how grim and somber this film is. Not much really happens story-wise - it’s more about the effects of living in a post-apocalyptic world - but its gritty realism makes it gripping. You may not feel happiness while watching The Road, but what you do feel will be very real.

THE RATING: 4 out of 5