LFF Review - The Road
Review by Rob Carnevale
What’s the story: A haunting thriller set in a bare, post-apocalyptic America, where a father (Viggo Mortensen) and son (Kodi McPhee) struggle to survive.
Our verdict: John Hillcoat’s bleak adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s critically acclaimed novel The Road is the latest must-see movie of the 53rd London Film Festival.
Set in a post-apocalyptic America as a father and son attempt to survive the extreme conditions and the cannibalistic remnants of society, it’s a harrowing journey… yet one that grips and pays huge emotional reward.
Hillcoat’s use of landscape, in particular, is utterly beguiling and as much a character in the film as the actors themselves – a feat he also achieved with his last movie, The Proposition.
The Road‘s backdrops are grey, sparse, haunting and bleakly visionary. Incredibly, they’re not the product of CGI, but rather exhaustive location hunting… which, in turn, gives them a dismaying authenticity.
Thrust into the middle of this unforgiving scenario are Mortensen and McPhee, a father and son devoted to each other, whose desperation for survival is put to the test every day.
Mortensen’s father is an overly protective figure, desperate to find food and offer protection to his childhood, and fearful of every discovered opportunity and passer-by.
McPhee, on the other hand, refuses to believe that every survivor is bad, and that every opportunity is a trap in waiting. And it’s this push and pull that makes for such fascinating viewing, as well as the devotion that clearly exists between them.
Viewers, too, will be torn between which character to believe… as pockets of joy between father and son are routinely punctuated by sequences of shocking violence, or disturbing imagery.
Hillcoat, working from a script by Joe Penhall, manages to imbue the film with a tremendous amount of humanity, however, neatly offsetting optimism with fear.
It means that come the emotional ending, which marries tragedy with hope, viewers should be utterly invested. The Road is seldom easy watching, but it’s a richly rewarding, hugely impressive journey that’s well worth travelling along.