Brainflow Feed

That term first came to my mind when, as a child, I’d try to say “stream of consciousness” and end up with “brainflow.” It seems to fit here.

Welcome to the ramblings of my mind. (For now, they revolve mostly around films.)

The Road

Sunday, September 5th, 2010 4:05 pm—Film

The Road (USA 2009, Adventure/Drama/Thriller), Writer: Joe Penhall; Director: John Hillcoat

I was talking about The Road with a friend last week. We were trying to figure out what kind of mood you need to be in to want to see a film that’s so devastating, but still be cheerful enough that you won’t be wrecked by it. I guess I got to that place this weekend, because I finally rented The Road after thinking about watching it for the past few months.

As it turns out, I was right to be wary of the film’s impact. The Road is massively upsetting. I’ve never cried so much over a movie. But throughout the sadness, I was still able to appreciate its beauty: the stark, heartbreaking imagery; wonderful production design; and performances by two of the most gifted and profound actors working today—Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron.

The Road is based on Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name, which won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (and which I now can’t wait to read). It begins several years after an unnamed catastrophe has killed most of life, and very nearly all of humanity, on Earth. A Man (Mortensen) and his Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) are headed south, as per the instructions given by Boy’s mother, Woman (Theron), before the three parted ways. We don’t know where they started, only that they’re on the road to finding somewhere better than that—if anything better still exists.

As post-apocalyptic tales go, the story arc is fairly predictable. Man and Boy run into the characters and situations you’d probably expect: bad people who pillage and cannibalize; good people like Man and Boy, desperate and struggling to survive; times of illness and famine; and, occasionally, moments of good fortune when they find canned goods and even a place to bathe.

In spite of its simplicity, The Road is so expertly crafted that it still hits home in a searing, powerful way. Man and Woman are faced with horrific choices no parent should ever have to make. It’s a sick world when parents must decide whether the best way to protect their child is to kill him; when a father could just as easily pull the trigger on his son as pull him into an embrace.

Woman is already pregnant when the world begins to die. When her water breaks, she has only one word: “No.” She doesn’t want to do it anymore. But there isn’t a choice. Boy’s birth marks the beginning of an endless string of acts the family must carry out even though they don’t want to. Each one is captured exquisitely, understatedly and poetically.

I loved every moment of The Road. The cinematography is stunning. The score somehow inserts glimmers of hope, without ever ruining the dark and somber tone. The cast is great; when you have Guy Pearce and Molly Parker take on microscopic roles, you know you’re watching a film worth being part of. Theron has a supporting role, but she plays it flawlessly and with the same depth she brought to Monster and North Country. Mortensen is perfect for the role of Man.

The Road may be straightforward, but we’re taken along it in such a way that its devastation becomes real and clear. Brief flashbacks intrude on the narrative now and then, slivers of the past that break through the grim present. The sound effects and voice-overs that accompany the end credits are subtle but harrowing, remnants of a world left behind, reminders of what we might still have.

If you find yourself in a place where you can handle a movie like this, I highly recommend The Road. It’s artful, thoughtful and thought provoking; a deeply moving film that gets its point across without ever climbing up on a soapbox.

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