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Saturday, 16 January 2010

Film - The Road - directed by John Hillcoat

Star rating – 8/10

Let’s get the admissions out of the way first – I haven’t read the Cormac McCarthy book on which this bleak film is based. It is now on my ‘to read’ list, but I may have to leave it a little while until I subject myself to it such blackness again. And bleak this film really is – even though by popular opinion it is not as bleak as the novel.

The road of the title refers to the journey made by a man and his young son after a catastrophic disaster has wrecked havoc on Earth, leaving any survivors prey to starvation, murderous gangs, and cannibalism. The two leads are on screen for most of the film and are impressively and heart rendingly played by Viggo Mortensen as the desperate father, and Kodi Smit-McPhee as his son. His mother, played in flashback by Charlize Theron, could not face up to the nightmare of struggling for survival in such a barren and hostile world, and leaves her family to fend for themselves while she goes into the dark night to her inevitable death, whilst wishing they had shot themselves whilst they still had enough bullets left to do so. And as the film goes on, you do feel that she may have had a point.

The two struggling survivors have to stay alert for every moment of every day and night - for any chance of finding a scrap of precious food; and to the ever present danger of finding hostile fellow survivors, driven to robbery and murder in the desperate circumstances.

The cinematography is stunning, with the dying planet perfectly captured on screen as the pair make their near impossible journey south to the coast. But the pointlessness of the journey is a bit baffling. There will be no happy ending at the coast. Only misery all the way. What else could they expect really?

Hollywood has obviously left its imprint on this version of the story, with the more bestial element of the book toned down considerably by all accounts. But nevertheless the innocence and hopefulness of the boy are very touching. He will not let his father succumb to the madness of treating all strangers as murderous enemies. So my advice is, if you are suffering from the January blues, this may not be the film for you. But if you want a powerful, post apocalyptic, well acted story with a bleak message – then this may just fit the bill.

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