Starring Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee. Rated 14A. Opens Friday, November 27, at the Cinemark Tinseltown
The Road takes place against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic America ravaged by devastating earthquakes and the worst aspects of human nature. Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, the story centres around the day-to-day survival of a nameless father and his preadolescent son (Viggo Mortensen and young Kodi Smit-McPhee, who both deliver deeply moving performances). Forced to make their way across a landscape barren of vegetation and game, their goal is simply to keep heading further south, a highly dangerous journey that involves combatting everything from starvation to roving bands of murderous cannibals.
Watch the trailer for The Road.
As an act of love, the father safeguards a revolver that has a single bullet remaining in the chamber. He hopes to have enough courage to use it on his son if they're cornered by a band of man-eaters. It's the kind of relentlessly bleak scenario best expressed by a scene where our travellers are trying to stave off starvation by chewing on a few twigs. “We're the good guys, right?” asks the boy, with a stubborn flicker of pride. “Because we don't eat people, right?” When his father reassures him that they will always remain good people, it becomes clear we're watching a family held together by the sheer grit of their own integrity.
The pair are tortured by their abandonment by the most meaningful woman in their lives (Charlize Theron as a wife and mother who considers suicide the only sane option in a world gone mad). Thanks to the subtle approach of director John Hillcoat—who somehow manages the neat trick of making the occasional dreamy flashback to civilized society seem disarmingly surreal—none of this comes across as overblown or sensationalistic. Despite all the savagery on display, what ultimately emerges is a profoundly delicate study on the power of love.