The Road

Rating: ★½☆☆☆ 

For a time, if somebody had asked me to name the bleakest film I’d ever seen, I might have said Roman Polanski’s Holocaust film, The Pianist, which was so dire that, honestly, I couldn’t even claim to have been able to appreciate whatever artistic merits it might have had. To be sure, I didn’t particularly care for the film at all–it was too much. The Holocaust was terrible. I get it. I could have done without wallowing in the misery of it for two and a half hours.

Then I saw Children of Men, which I thought stole the dubious distinction of “most soul-crushing film ever” from The Pianist. Again, Children of Men was a film that I wouldn’t even recommend, because despite the evident craft that went into its filming, it simply weighs upon you for days after watching it–it’s an effort even to make it through to the end. That said, if you did make it to the ending, you were able to see some light at the end of the tunnel, and for that, Children of Men was ultimately somewhat redeemed (though still soul-crushing on the whole).

Now comes The Road, a cinematic translation of Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic book by the same title. There is almost nothing good in this film. It’s just colorless landscapes featuring the corpse of mother nature, and dirty, horrible people in a world that literally has no hope. The apocalyptic event is never explained in the film, but my understanding is that the world is slowly dying. Even if the protagonists are able to survive until the next day, you have to wonder why anybody would want to. What’s the point?

The total lack of specificity with regards to the apocalyptic event was a real sticking point for me, to be honest. We’re told that nothing survived except for people. All other life seems to have been destroyed. But how? And why? If I’m going to pull for the human characters, I need to know there’s at least some promise of rebuilding. But this film gives you none, and as a result, The Road is the bleakest film I’ve ever seen.

I can’t in good conscience recommend it to anybody unless you feel like giving yourself nightmares for a week.

5 Replies to “The Road”

  1. I loved Children of Men, if only because the acting was great and for the technical craft behind the directing and filming. I respected it and enjoyed it based solely on things like that, even though the story was, as you said, so bleak and dire to the point that it was almost pointless.

    I suppose I may have taken away from Children of Men some sense of excitement and enjoyment that the director didn’t necessarily intend. As a film fan, I was held in rapt attention through the long cuts, wondering how long they would sustain them, where the camera was going, how they did that pan, etc. That doesn’t say much for the story, I guess, but I still got a lot of enjoyment from it just as a lesson in craft. But I suppose I wouldn’t recommend the film to most people, even though maybe most people wouldn’t obsess over the camera work as much as I did.

    Having said that… the Road just looked boring. I remember being a little annoyed when the book came out and received so much acclaim from the literary community, who heaped award after award on it. I’m sure it’s a wonderfully written book, but it still seemed lame to me that after countless books have been written about a post apocalyptic world, the only one that received any kind of acclaim (or even credibility) was one written by an already accepted writer of “literature.”

    Then again, maybe the book *is* just that good.

    Does this movie at least have some good scenes of Viggo Mortenson killing people?

  2. And this has nothing to do with anything, but somebody should do an edit of Ghostbusters 2 where the replace that painting of Viggo the Carpathian with Viggo Mortenson.

  3. Of the three films, the only one I can claim to have enjoyed on some level is Children of Men. Like you, I found it to be outstandingly well made, and the story, itself, was consistently clever and ultimately sort of hopeful. If you can sit through it once, then you may as well sit through it a second time to even better appreciate the art of Children of Men. But if a person has never seen it, I’m not going to say that he or she should do so.

    As to The Road, this wasn’t A History of Violence only in a post-apocalyptic world (sadly). Viggo’s character wasn’t some bad-ass, though he does kill two people. Not in a cool way.

  4. And then somebody should make a film where Viggo plays the actors who have portrayed the main villains from every film, tv series, and serial based on Flash Gordon. They could call it “Lord of the Mings.”

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