The Road (2009)
If there’s anything deeply personal and profound to say about this movie, it would be about how my dad and I traveled across the country in sheer desperation at the end of the 1980’s and early 1990’s. While there was no ecological or natural disaster that caused us to leave our home for warmer weather, there was a lot of talk about the pending doom that was in the airwaves via all the AM radio we listened to.
If you actually listened to a lot of late night radio back then, whether it was the likes of Art Bell or Bible-Thumping ‘Christian’ stations, you would get the impression that any day now the end of the world was going to happen “tomorrow” or any day now. There was a sense while parking in some of the strangest abandoned locations that maybe it already happened and we were the first to know.
Then there were conversations with my dad about the breakup between him and my mom back in 1974 and how he really never got over it, sometimes with painful details that no son should ever hear from a parent.
“The Road” directed John Hillcoat staring Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron, Kodi Smit-McPhee via the novel by Cormac McCarthy and screenplay by Joe Penhall would be best described by me as someone creeping into our sub-conscience at that specific period and time and exploiting what they saw for fun and profit.
Endless rant about the end of the world? Check.
Coughing and hacking? Check.
Stealing and scavaging to stay alive? Check.
Fear of other travelers in the same situation? Check.
The actual movie captured that sense of desperation, what it’s like to be homeless and alone traveling during some of the worst weather conditions with a parent who might be going crazy because of bad memories and inner demons. The movie nails it perfectly. For this to be an unauthorized biography of my life all it needs is a blue Chevy van and a beaten-up fedora in desperate need of a reblock.
Beyond my personal connection to the film, though, is that it’s one of the best post-apocalyptic films I’ve ever seen and perhaps the most depressing for some of the most obvious reasons. There’s the entire notion that the Earth is dying and there’s no explanation… There is a handful of genuinely terrifying scenes of forests dying or dead trees uprooting themselves because of decayed roots and erosion. Couple that with either constant overcast skies or severe weather, and this film is the epitome of the end of the world scenarios.
This is all horrible, and yet I was conflicted because "The Road" was so well made. So many scenes are perfectly captured.
Then, there’s the behavior of some of the services of the global holocaust that’s genuinely deplorable; most notably the cannibalism. It’s one of the aspects of this movie that I had the hardest time shaking, the notion that those aren’t hoards of flesh eating zombies chasing other, weaker individuals; those are normal people turned into savages thanks to starvation and loss of basic services.
For those who haven’t seen the film, I apologize if I’ve spoiled that “surprise” for you.
There are many events that happen in this film that leaves many viewers like myself scratching our heads and wondering if “that” is something I would do. There are many questionable things that “the good guys” in this movie do. Were I in these situations that are obviously worse than what I went through; would I have done the same thing?
During my homeless wandering years, I had escaped, I could go places and pretend everything was alright and I was normal just like everyone else. I dug myself out by finding work, I never had to resort to anything beyond stealing what I needed from abandoned buildings or cars in salvage yards. I never actually had to kill and eat people.
I mean… I never actually killed people then ate them. Let’s just clarify that.
But then there are the reasons why this movie is depressing but not for obvious reasons. This is one of those few movies that ends by punching you in the emotional gut then kicks you in the head while you’re hunched over. “The Road” has a quasi-happy ending that leaves you feeling even emptier for a movie of this caliber.
“The Road” doesn’t leave viewers with any sense of hope in the end. There’s not a morsel that things will get better and someday the world will recover and humanity will endure. There’s nothing in this movie for viewers (or readers of the book) to hang on to in the end as the credits role.
It’s not a movie for the faint of heart, it’s not for people who are easily offended, scared, or have weak stomachs. It’s not a first-date movie by any means.
For most viewers, it’s enough to endure this movie and survive it. The real adventure is to merely go through it from beginning to end, experience every aspect of it and let yourself ask the questions in regards to how well you would endure a situation like this. How would you survive? Or would you want to?