A note from the writer, Robert Lucas: Each week I’ll be taking a look at a film from the past that I have loved, hated or that has influenced cinema dramatically, hopefully making them somewhat relevant. With that in mind, this week’s is a post-apocalyptic drama with a very different take to next week’s Mad Max remake.
The Road is a post-apocalyptic film about a father and son trying to survive in a hostile and broken world, but I suppose the reel question is, will this make me feel Melancholia or be as mad as Max?
Unlike other end of the world movies where there is a great explosion or a strong catalyst that triggers Armageddon, The Road takes a more disturbing approach. It creates an apocalypse where the world slowly dies around us. It doesn’t end in a burst of flames and glory, but in a long drawn out process, like a cancer.
That is where we find Viggo Mortensen who is referred to only as Father or Pap pap by his son, who is never named more precisely than the Son. In the middle of this death, where there’s no food, and the two are forced to near starve daily, they are not alone, they have each other. They are surrounded by threats, humans are few and far between and Father is suspicious of anyone they meet. The Road shows us a place where people have turned into monsters, simply because they can.
The Road is a disturbing film, but in its depression comes great power. The most powerful element is the boy, who has never known a time other than this. Standing as a beacon of hope, the boy is an innocent in a world of decay, always wanting to help other survivors.
Viggo Mortensen is perfect as a father. He cares about nothing and no one but his son’s survival, as he expresses fears and concerns in monologues to the audience alone. In the opening soliloquy he states “There has been cannibalism. Cannibalism is the great fear.” This is a tough sentence on its own, however it is nested between all of his other thoughts so we hardly notice it, until later on in the movie.
The Road has phenomenal set designs, giving a feeling of a planet that has been deserted. The haunting soundtrack supports this and married with John Hillcoat’s directing style you are quickly drawn into the story, and the one left behind of Viggo and his wife.
It is the unending silence, stillness and solace that is The Road’s greatest weapon. Huge expansions of wasteland contrast directly with the flurries of chaos, hatred and fear. All of which is beyond the son’s pure vision of the world.
The Road is without doubt one of the most depressing, powerful and important films to ever be made.