Written by: Joe Penhall
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Robert Duvall, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce
Post-apocalyptic worlds, in all of their horror, give little for individuals to live for with a lack of any order, typically a distinct lack of resources, and individuals willing to kill for it. Of the many seen in television and film, what gets depicted in The Road probably has them all beat in creating the bleakest setting, which makes the little moments of humanity all that meaningful, especially when it comes to the bond between a parent and their child.
In a world where all plant and animal life has gone extinct, a man (Viggo Mortenson) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) travel through empty streets trying to salvage any food they can and avoid drawing the attention of others. As they travel they see the complete lack of resources around them as they survive the brutal cold of their surroundings.
When humanity has resorted to cannibalism as a source of nutrition, you just know things have reached a point of insanity in scarcity. The world followed in The Road contains a mixture of both in how it displays what remains for these individuals after a cataclysmic event left much of the Earth inhospitable. It leaves each individual with the choice of having to do seedy actions in order to survive, take themselves out of the world, or succumb to the elements. In a sense, this feature asks the very real question of what an audience member would do and if the life remaining for anyone would be worth living. This proves evident in the flashback scenes the man has with his wife (Charlize Theron) as they experience the beginning of this apocalypse and struggle with bringing a child into this world and whether the child should experience the horrors of this new reality. It does not leave much hope for anyone still breathing but with the journey of this man and boy, little bits of hope begin to display themselves.
As one would expect, a sense of cynicism exists in this world where no one can be trusted, which means each individual these two come across must immediately be met with suspicion at the very least when encountered. This rightful cynicism held by the man then gets countered by the naive and sweet nature of the boy who sees others in need of support and genuinely wants to help. Several moments throughout the feature display this dichotomy, which once again poses questions to the audience. It raises questions of why it would be worth trudging on in this world if our fellow neighbors cannot be trusted and we immediately try to kill each other for the remaining resources. It presents a horrid life, in which the child tries to bring some semblance of humanity where none exists.
Very much matching the mood and tone of the feature, a very gray and dark visual approach gets applied to this film. The world lacks any wildlife thus eliminating any greens that would inhabit this environment. Everything has this feeling of death and barrenness to it further encapsulating what makes this a difficult story to sit through. We just know things will not go well for these characters one way or another, it all comes down to which incident will lead to their downfall.
In a world where cannibalism gets resorted to, this feature ensures to display several circumstances where these characters brush against the worst this world has to offer. Some scenes display a horrific level of evil put on by some of these characters and exactly how much depravity they will inflict on others in order to survive. A scene in a cellar sticks out the most in displaying possibly the most terrifying scene on both a visual level while also a look at the terrors humans will inflict on others. It will really make you question why the man refuses to use those final two bullets on him and the boy and put themselves out of their mystery.
Holding the majority of this spotlight are Viggo Mortenson and a young Kodi Smit-McPhee and with limited dialogue, they do a good job of portraying this father-son duo. Viggo truly never disappoints and his turn as this paternal figure allows him to shine as he usually does in being the realist of these circumstances. He allows for the moments of elation to have significance along with the pain stemming from the world they live in.
Certainly not a cheery watch by any stretch of the imagination, The Road displays a bleak world filled with individuals trying to do whatever it takes to survive. The prospects so happen to push the remaining individuals into some cannibalism. Everything in this feature seeks to answer the difficult question of whether life at this level remains something worth living and this feature certainly does a great job of displaying both vantage points and making for a unique viewing experience amongst many post-apocalyptic stories out there.