"I told the boy when you dream about bad things happening, it means you're still fighting and you're still alive."
When trying to come up with one adjective to describe The Road there is no better word than gritty. The Road isn't your usual entertaining post-apocalyptic film, it is much darker and realistic. It's not an easy watch because the tone of the film is very depressing. There are some moments of hope where the main characters find some peace, but it is only temporary as their desperation begins creeping in once they are confronted with their reality. It's a film that will haunt you, but I can't think of another post-apocalyptic film that feels so real and authentic. There are still some survivors left in the midst of all the devastation, but their humanity is gone. Even the main character has lost most of his humanity and capacity for compassion; it's only through his boy that he continues to fight and the few acts of mercy he shows are because of the boy. The two lead performances are what ultimately hold this film together, but the cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe also helped set the tone for this dark and gritty film. The grey and empty landscapes are gorgeously shot. Director, John Hillcoat (Lawless), has made a depressive but authentic futuristic film, and his greatest achievement was staying true to Cormac McCarthy's novel.
This is the third film adapted from McCarthy's novels that I've had the privilege to experience and despite the fact that they've been directed by different people I've still enjoyed all of them. They all seem to have a gritty tone. In this film we follow a father (Viggo Mortensen) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) as they walk across the desolated America heading to a warmer climate in the south. Along the way they face hunger, cold weather, and a few surviving lawless cannibals. Humanity has lost all hope and the few survivors have abandoned their morals in order to survive. The father constantly reminds his son that they are the good guys and that he must learn how to survive in this desolated land. We get some flashbacks of the father's past as he recalls brighter days with his wife (Charlize Theron), and in these flashbacks we also learn what happened to her. Some of the encounters the father and son experience along the way will challenge their spirits and there only goal is to survive another day.
The gritty tone of this film slowly sucks you in emotionally and engages you. You feel the cold and hunger these characters are experiencing and ultimately you find yourself submersed in their desolated world. Viggo Mortensen is a force to reckon with, he gives yet another terrific performance, and he carries this film. McPhee also delivers a strong performance playing the young and scared son who can't quite understand the lack of humanity. His father constantly reminds him that they must keep the fire within burning. Their relationship is the true core of this film and the film succeeds thanks to their believable performances. Despite the slow pacing, the film is well crafted and it manages to hold your attention. It's not an easy watch and it's not a film you will want to visit again, but it is a well crafted film.