December 13, 2009

The Road

John Hillcoat's starkly imagined adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's excellent book is initially something hauntingly beautiful to behold. The world the Man and Boy inhabit is fully realized; the photography (by Javier Aguirresarobe, who shot the last Twilight film) and art direction (by Gershon Ginsburg) at once immerses the viewer into their experience. A grey, desaturated palette permeates the landscape, only occasionally leavened with warmer tones (though at one point oddly so).

The story centers around these two unnamed characters as they navigate their post-apocalyptic world. The event that triggered the apocalypse is never explained or shown; the current reality is merely presented as the fate of the world. The Man and Boy have survived, and are moving south, in search of warmth, in search of food, and in search of other "good guys." Bad guys abound.

The black cover and sparse typography of the original paperback perfectly encapsulate the prose contained therein. When I first heard of the film adaptation, I was surprised and feared for the material when I saw the original previews. I thought the film would become an odd action piece. The filmmakers have stuck closely to the material, however, and for the first 30-40 minutes I was enthralled. I soaked in the details of their world and and wondered at how similar some of the scenes were to photographs of recent and current natural disasters. Indeed, one scene was a digital rendering of actual destruction from Hurricane Katrina in Empire, Louisiana.

The few actions scenes were handled well, and even though I knew the outcomes from reading the book, my heart was racing. The actors are well-suited to their roles, and Kodi Smit-McPhee does an impressive job as the Boy. Occasional flashbacks flesh out their past, depicting the Man's relationship with the Boy's mother, and how they as a family were brought to this point.

Unfortunately, the film relies too much on music to underscore emotion, and by the time the half-way point was reached I found it distracting. The cold emptiness of the world was at odds with the very idea of a soundtrack; each time the music began, it intruded on the story and the emotional core of the film. Not to say the soundtrack is poor; for the most part I enjoyed the music independently, but it seemed inappropriate to the material at hand. The music took me out of the film so that by the end I had become disengaged. Sadly, music could have been a single strength in the film, as a piano figures prominently in the Man's memory of his wife.

An aside: one thing I noticed while watching the film was the need for people to create their own mythologies in order to stay alive. The Man tells the Boy of the fire they must keep and hold onto while searching for the good guys, and it is this belief the Boy has in his fire that carries him forward towards the ocean and towards his salvation.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

| 2 comments | Tags: ,,


I really loved this movie. I thought the cinematography was gorgeous, and the father/son storyline really hit home with me. It was brutal to watch at times, for sure, but not so brutal as to be an exercise in masochism. I don't even remember the soundtrack, honestly, so I couldn't have been distracted by it.

I read that many of the conversations between father and son in the book were verbatim copies of conversations that Cormac McCarthy had with his own son. I was wondering how much of the dialogue from the book made it on screen. Do you know? The only Cormac McCarthy book I've read is Blood Meridian, unfortunately, although I'd love to read more someday.

Here's an interesting interview with McCarthy and Hillcoat:

Ed S. | December 13, 2009 4:29 PM | Reply

I'm not sure exactly how much of the dialogue of the book made it on screen, but I did recognize some of it. I felt like there was less dialogue in the book, but maybe that's because of how the prose was structured. If you get the chance, I'd highly recommend reading it.

And with respect to brutal novels, Blood Meridien is pretty brutal from what I recall . . .

Author Profile Page eugene replied to comment from Ed S. | December 19, 2009 12:43 AM | Reply

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