Exercise 2.2(2): Explore a road – review of a film

The Road

I watched this film which is an adaptation of the novel by Cormack McCarthy. It is an unremittingly bleak film of life in a distopian future. It follows the fortunes (or rather misfortunes) of a father and son attempting to travel to the coast in a post-apocalyptic USA. We never know what has happened to the world, but there would seem to have been some kind of nuclear or environmental disaster. There are few, if any, animals and the trees and vegetation are all grey; the buildings have all been destroyed. The landscape is bleak and barren throughout the film. There is little sunlight (apart from in flashbacks) with the sky consistently grey and much of the land covered in a grey ash.

The road presents the only hope to the father and son in presenting them with a route to the coast, which the father seems to believe is their only chance of survival. But the roads are lawless with marauding gangs of killers and cannibals. Whenever the pair are threatened by the gangs they have to flee the road into the barren landscape around them. This produces a dichotomy of the road presenting the hope of the most direct route to salvation but the most dangerous way of getting there. Not that safety is afforded everywhere off the road, in one particularly haunting scene the, seemingly secure, cellar they discover turns out to be an horrific prison where human beings are incarcerated for later slaughter and consumption by cannibals. Later in the film though, another cellar provides a womb like sense of security with plentiful food and shelter. This can only be a temporary respite though (they could not stay there forever). So it is back to the road and their journey to the coast. The road now helps them on their journey by making it easier to haul their cart full of provisions with them.

It seems to me that the road is a metaphor for life, when the going is very tough there is a tremendous struggle to survive, some fall by the wayside, some (like the wife in the flashbacks) choose not to go on, others make herculean (such as the father) efforts to continue. The film explores how good and evil can be brought out by the the most trying of circumstances and the road is the route through which these opposites are examined.

The end of the film presents the nearest we ever get to hope and salvation, not that it is a happy ending, that would be almost unbelievable in the context of the rest of the film. Father and son reach the end of the road (in the father’s case both literally and metaphorically). The father lays down his life in protecting his son but another family then appear and offer to protect the child.

The child has travelled the road and now faces a very uncertain future, but one that has a little more hope than was the case at the start of the journey.