Those upset by the intense negativity in author Cormac McCarthy’s bookturned movie, “No Country for Old Men,” may want to rethink it as a comedy after seeing the film of his Pulitzer Prize-winner, “The Road.”
Under the somber direction of John Hillcoat, “The Road” is a post-Apoca - lyp tic story of survival in a world so bleak that there is little reason to live.
Some unnamed, unseen disaster has overtaken Earth, which is now close to extinction. Food, electricity, gas, oil, resources of any kind are gone. Trees continually collapse from unnourished roots. Silhouetted against this barren wasteland, we see the starved, lonely figures of Man (Viggo Mortensen) and Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee), lugging bundles of belongings in a struggle to exist from one day to the next.
Besides eking out some form of sustenance, they have to avoid roving bands of marauding cannibals. They also must maintain their sanity. Man does this by telling his son that they are the “good guys, who must carry the fire,” Pre gnan t? the fir e bei ng the wi ll to live. This is despite the fact that the father has a pistol containing two bullets “for when it’s time.”
The Man’s simple “good guy-bad guy” mortality message is put to the test after the Thief (Michael Kenneth Williams) steals their stuff. The Man catches up with him and forces the robber to strip naked. Regardless of the Boy’s protests, the Man leaves him in the cold to die and leaves the Boy questioning his father’s goodness.
“The Road” is a stark, stoic parable, with profound resonance in our current Age of Recession, Global Warming and seemingly Insolvable Inhuman - ities. The acting is first rate, right down to bit parts by such heavy hitters as Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce and Charlize Theron. Unlike futuristic special effects fests (“2012,” “Avatar”), “The Road” is lean and mean, with little chance of a video game tie-in.
Yet, it does offer a slight flicker of hope in its final minute.
Let’s hope that happens in ours.