The Big Picture - The Road

The Big Picture – The Road

By Mark HadleyMonday 18 Jan 2010

The Road
RATING:  MA Strong Themes & Violence
DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
RELEASE DATE: January 28, 2010

Where does evil come from? Most of the tales we tell ourselves suggest it is an aberration that arises from faulted individuals. However a few brave authors have suggested it finds its root in the human heart. Cormac McCarthy won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for a tale that shows just how conditional good is. His post-apocalyptic tale, The Road is now a major motion picture.

Viggo Mortensen plays a father guiding his young son through a world littered with human carrion and populated by cannibals. Despair and death have already claimed his wife and they threaten to overwhelm him too. His only defense is a gun with two bullets and an unending supply of devotion to the boy. “The child is my warrant,” he tells the viewer, “And if he is not the word of God then God never spoke.”

More than ten years past the world succumbed to a disaster that hid the sun and the moon behind unbroken clouds. Their departure marked the passing of all plant and animal life. Now there are only humans left to wander a barren landscape. “Each day is greyer than the day before and growing colder as the world slowly dies,” the man sighs. “Soon all the trees in the world will fall.”

The Road in part passes judgment on the selfishness and introspection of humanity, particularly where the natural world is concerned. Neither the book nor the film explains what happened but both hint that men saw the signs and did nothing. Robert Duvall mutters as a withered old man, “I knew this was coming. There were warnings. Some people thought it was a con but I always believed it.” And the Creator has rightfully forsaken his rebellious world. “If there is a god up there, he has turned his back on us by now and whoever made humanity is not going to look down and find any humanity here.”

The Road is nothing like previous end of the world films. Many – Mad Max, Waterworld, 28 Days, The Book of Eli to name a few – portray the evil that emerges as the province of the deviant and the insane. McCarthy’s tale makes no such pretense. Starvation has uncovered humanity’s inner savage and contact with anyone is to be feared. Neither are there any signs of a superhero on The Road. The father is a normal man with no special abilities, just an unrelenting practicality. In one of the most disturbing scenes Mortensen teaches the weeping boy a lesson no normal hero would ever attempt: how to put the pistol in his own mouth when the need arises.

The Road is a desolate view of the future filled with explicit language, violence and horror, but it is not without hope. It champions the human heart even as it locates evil in the heart of humanity. The son balances the father’s cold pragmatism with constant reminders that if they are indeed the ‘good guys’ then they must behave like them. But, shorn of God, The Road is a desperate journey through life. The hope is that the ‘good guys’ will find each other, but the reality is that death will find them all.

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The Road celebrates the triumph of the human spirit, but the human spirit alone has no solution for evil, no answer for death. Good is fragile and the good guys are too few to make a lasting difference. The Creator will have to return to his suffering world if there is ever going to be an enduring resurrection.

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