Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Road **1/2

Director: John Hillcoat
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smith-McPhee, Charlize Theron
Robert Duvall, Molly Parker, Guy Pearce, Michael K. Williams

After an unexplained cataclysm almost destroyed the planet, a man (Mortensen) and his son (Smith-McPhee) try to survive among the last remains of humanity.
They have to hide from people who became cannibals, look for food and find a way to get to the Gulf Coast where they think they will be safe.
Along the way they encounter several characters and problematic situations that force them to analyze if staying alive is really worth the risks.
Their only weapon is a gun with two bullets which they planned to use on each other upon reaching an extreme case.
Trying hard to be more than an apocalyptic "Paper Moon" the plot worries less about the lead characters' surroundings than about their relationship and how familiar traditions like father/son dynamics might be the only things that survive doomsday.
We see as the boy tries hard to grasp the loss of a world he never knew (he was born days after the tragedy began) and how the father copes with the memory of his wife (Theron) and how she chose death over life in a decaying world.
"Each day is more gray than the day before" narrates Mortensen even if we the movie was shot in a muddy palette by Javier Aguirresarobe which gives it a sense of dirtiness which inevitably makes us think that this is done with the eventual intention of purification on director Hillcoat's part.
The movie suffers from serious tonal unbalance as it travels from road movie with thriller elements, to intimate drama without ever justifying its choices.
Its most distressing problem lies on how much it tries to be a book. The screenplay was adapted from Cormac McCarthy's award winning novel and even if you haven't read it, you know the characters and actions were extracted from a novel.
The too poetic narration for example creates a weird separation between how Mortensen's character sees the world and how he refers to it.
More than haunting verses, his storytelling hints of insanity. When these words are paired with golden flashbacks involving Theron the film drifts to a place that isn't justified emotionally by the characters but suggests two different movies were made and then pasted together.
It's good that Mortensen gives a performance with enough power to distract us from the screenplay's inconsistencies.
He gives this man a tragic soul and most of his work is done with his eyes that peek from behind a huge beard and dirt. The man doesn't need big lines to evoke loss, despair and his immense love for the child.
Smith-McPhee comes off a bit obnoxious at times, but his performance makes sense given that he clings to his father and demands him to teach him all he needs to know.
The scenes where they just eat together and share seemingly insignificant moments are the ones where the whole movie is at its best.
Sadly Hillcoat never explores elemental things like why they have fought to stay alive for so long in a world that obviously won't last long.
The repercussions of such existential questions could've sparked debates of hope and human pride, but in "The Road" they are just as mysterious as the planet's destruction.
"Whoever made humanity will not find humanity here" says an old man (played brilliantly by Duvall) and hard as it tries the same can be said about this too mechanical movie.


Anonymous said...

I agree. The movies downfalls are the flashback scenes and the voiceover. Without those, it would have been a much better and effective film. I do think that we find a spark of humanity in the film that I enjoyed.

pnr-status said...

Spark of humanism will rise by this movie wonderful article too. i like to download online movie where do i go ?

The Road 2009 said...

It is great film. Must See. I loved Robert Duvall's turn as the grizzled survivor. It was a supporting role sure to win an Oscar nomination. I think this will win more than its share of Oscar nominations.