Last night I had the privilege of enjoying a few movies at home with my wife, one of which was The Road. This 2009 film is based on the novel by Cormac MCarthy, and it stars Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McKee, Charlize Theron, and Robert Duvall. It tells the story of the post-apocalyptic struggle of a father and young son as they make their way in a gray world of death and decay in a constant search for food, shelter, and the avoidance of the few remaining humans, many of whom band together in gangs which seek to brutalize and eventually cannibalize those unfortunate enough to cross their path.
Apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic is one of the popular elements of many films in our time, no doubt reflecting our growing anxieties and fears related to social and cultural breakdown where the enemy then becomes humanity attacking itself as a far greater threat than anything external. This is a basic premise of many horror films, from Night of the Living Dead to The Mist. The breakdown of social order threatens us in many forms, from the very real possibility of nuclear conflict to devastation of the environment and possible global economic collapse. How would people survive in a world after such calamities, and just as important, would it be enough to merely survive or would acts of compassion still have relevance in such settings? These are the pressing moral questions portrayed in this bleak and depressing yet captivating film. The viewer is drawn into the story not only through the very real possibilities of a 21st century world facing its own post-apocalyptic challenges, but also from moving dramatic performances from everyone involved, as well as from the scenery of this film done not through CGI, but from real locations of devastation including Mount St. Helens and the areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
This is a gripping moral drama, every bit as good as films like The Machinist, that can easily be missed by film fans as cinematic gems like this get lost amidst big budget studio productions. I would encourage those interested in pursuing this film further to read the review of my fellow Cinefantastique Online contributor, Peg Aloi. After that, go to wherever you rent your films to add something special to your Memorial Day weekend.