The Road | Drama | rated R (V) | starring Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron | 1:41 mins
A man (Viggo Mortensen) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) try to survive in an ash-covered post apocalyptic world where the rest of humanity seems to have reverted to robbery, rape and cannibalism to survive.
Surely you’ve seen it before. One of those movies that seems so specifically targeted at a particular demographic that it needs not set up itself, that it trusts in the shared experiences between itself and it’s audience. Whether that movie is about single people in New York or married people going through crisis or kids saying the darndest things. The Road is a lot like one of those movies, geared specifically at audience members who have survived an unnamed post-apocalyptic nightmare. And since as of now that population is zero, It’s hard to tell what the movie – an apparently dead-on adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel – is selling here.
Road is the world’s bleakest and most spirit-deflating road trip movie you may ever see in which father and son traipse through the ash-covered remains of the landscape after an apocalypse of unnamed origin. Father (unnamed) teaching son (unnamed) how to survive and not trust anyone in preparation for the day he’s gone. Along the way they meet a few celebrity cameos from a few actors (including Robert Duvall and Guy Pierce) willing to don the movie’s scruffy, bearded homeless beggar wardrobe. They narrowly avoid threats from all around – because this is a Hollywood movie where we are most often told that in times of crisis human beings turn on each other and revert back to primordial savages. Charlize Theron appears in flashback as mom. For her part Theron’s brief appearance allows her to round out her trilogy of misery. At least The Road isn’t as over-the-top to the point of disbelief in selling the cruelty of it’s characters as North Country and Monster were.
It isn’t that the film is inept or dumb in the usual way, but Road comes off as completely worthless. A slow, dull ride that doesn’t go anywhere. The Cohen brother adaptation of McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men didn’t exactly go anywhere either, at least in the usual sense of screenwriting story structure, but it had unique characters and a powerful theme behind it. Not to mention filmmakers who could make a satisfying movie out of stream of consciousness wandering. Road has none of these things, meandering from one event to another that almost happens until it becomes a bleak gray blur. It says a lot when you get to a pitch-black scene where dad puts a gun to his son’s forehead to spare him from being taken by cannibals knocking at the door and the scene barely raises an eye-brow or ounce of suspense.
The Road is very willing to cast off all the trappings of a typical narrative formula, but to what purpose? To be a pretentious antithesis to other movies that had the nerve to create a story beyond a metaphor? Instead it is just completely and utterly empty. A symphony of suffering from actors playing vessels, not characters in a story that doesn’t exist. We’re asked to buy it as a powerful story of the dedication a father will have for his son, but it’s a story that is entirely without a context other than as a guide on How to Survive the Apocalypse. With a deep-seeded, high brow art-house meaning left to be made up by only the most pseudo-intellectual of film snobs.