The Road Review
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The road to theaters hasn’t been an easy one for director John Hillcoat’s The Road. Originally scheduled for release in late 2008, the post-apocalyptic drama has been bumped again and again (currently three times and counting—since it still hasn’t opened in most markets). Really, any number of factors could be to blame. Some say it’s because of studio politics. Others suggest budget constraints. But, if you ask me, it’s just because there’s no audience for it.

Viggo Mortensen stars as a man who’s traveling through a dark and dreary world with his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Food is scarce, and cannibals are everywhere, so their goal is simply survival.

Ever since the night when the fires started—when the world began to die—the only thing that has mattered to the man is his family. And since his wife (Charlize Theron) is gone, his son is all he has left. So, together, they walk, heading south to the coast, dragging their belongings with them in a cart, and trying their best to avoid the “bad guys” along the way.

Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy (who also wrote the novel behind the Coens’ No Country for Old Men), The Road is a long and dreary film, painted in a palette of dust and ash. It’s heavy and repetitive—and, aside from a couple of half-hearted run-ins with cannibals, not a whole lot happens. But while some directors might use such a quiet, barren setting to create an eerie backdrop for a poignant drama, Hillcoat leaves it at that: just a quiet, barren setting for a quiet, barren movie.

Though I haven’t read the novel, I’ve heard that it’s absolutely excruciating—a devastating emotional journey. But that’s not the case with the film. Oh, it’s still excruciating—but emotionally, it’s as drab and desolate as its landscape. Not only are the characters nameless, but they’re rather flat and detached, too. And even after two hours of following them through nothingness, you won’t care all that much about them.

Meanwhile, with nothing else to connect to, you’ll have plenty of time to ponder those nagging little questions, like What brought about the Apocalypse in the first place? or If it’s still raining this much, why is everything dead? or Why is the cart with them in some scenes but not in others?

The Road could have been a powerful drama—one that leaves its audience feeling…well, anything. Hope, perhaps. Or maybe even sadness. Instead, the closing credits bring little more than a feeling of relief.

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