The Road, which was brought to the screen by John Hillcoat, has the unique displeasure of bringing Cormac McCarthy’s desolate future to the screen. It does so with a beautiful palate of browns and grays, more earthy tones, accented by the occasional streak of orange. This kind of cinematography lends itself to the film, but unfortunately, pretty pictures alone do not make a film.
Hillcoat has a difficult job with the film. The world that’s been created is a barren one as the planet slowly dies as a father and son try to make it to the coast, in hopes of starting a new life. This was one of the issues of the film that was a little bit confusing since the words “the planet is dying” were thrown around quite a bit. If the whole planet is dying, what difference will location hold? It’s clear that this movie is a tale of survival, but it was unclear if the location change would make any difference. It could have been just an inability to comprehend/accept that there was no way out of the situation, but if that was the case, why not commit suicide? These types of questions may signify a lack of understanding to some folks, but they’re crucial elements to the story that were never properly addressed in the movie. It could easily be as comment on the human spirit, but either way, the material wasn’t entirely primed for a film adaptation.
However, I think an even bigger issue is the emotional subject matter of the film. It’s understood when going into a post-apocalyptic movie, that not many people are going to leave with the warm fuzzies. Still, there’s little to no addressing of the emotional toil that this film takes on the audience. Yes, it’s supposed to be brutal and it’s supposed to be difficult to watch, but they keep poking at it over and over again. What resulted was a complete emotional shutdown, at least on my part. The movie continued to play out, but I just turned off emotionally. Any film person worth their weight in dirt will tell you that emotional involvement on the part of the audience is a crucial element. i firmly believe that McCarthy has an understanding of that in his book. However, the film feels completely unaware or uncaring, it’s difficult to tell which, of it’s audience’s emotional state. In the end it the film proved more exhausting and drawn out than it did thought provoking. Again, this is probably largely due to the clumsy handling of some of the emotional material, but it’s difficult to say. All that is certain is that if this road is The Road less travelled, it’s not hard to see why.