And you thought the past few weeks were a rough winter?
I had the chance back in November to attend a screening of The Road, a new film based on Cormac McCarthy’s (No Country for Old Men) award-winning book of the same title.
The Road is a gritty tale, not for the faint of heart. Viggo Mortensen (“Aragorn” in Lord of the Rings) once again proves as tough as any movie monsters thrown at him, whether man or myth. (I’m not sure how much weight he lost for this role, but it’s disturbing–rightfully so.) He plays the father of a young boy, both of whom are living in a post-apocalyptic world that is bleaker than any nightmare I’ve ever had. We aren’t told in the film what caused the end of the world (nuclear war seems most likely, based on a few descriptions), but the end came and it was nastier than cafeteria meatloaf. Planet and animal life is all but non-existent. What few humans remain are either on the hunt or the run. Forget dog-eat-dog–this is a man-eat-man world, and the filmmakers do little to spare us along those lines. Find food or be food, seem the options left.
The father and his son struggle to survive as they attempt to find help (and hope, which they have little of). This is more than man vs. nature, though. The father’s sleep is haunted by the world that was–specifically the memory of his wife. (I don’t want to give away too much here.) McCarthy’s narrative draws on mythological themes, and one sees that in several of the scenes, including an almost-unrecognizable appearance by Robert Duvall.
The film explores the issues of love (father-son), hope (or lack of), and ultimately faith. One major idea of the film is its fleshed-out humanism, though it is the bold and honest kind envisioned by someone like Nietzsche, not the cream-puff “there is no God, but let’s love each other anyway and everything will be alright” philosophy so popular. One scene involves the young boy praying in thanks for food discovered. Not knowing any better, he simply prays to the people who left it, though the father cannot even bring himself to that. Having an unreasonable hope is one thing; but operating with no hope is an entirely different animal to be confronted with. McCarthy drives that home.
The Road is the kind of movie that you shouldn’t even think about taking your kids to see. But it is a movie that perhaps you need to. The ideas in it will have you thinking for days (I saw it almost two months ago, and I’m still disturbed and perplexed and intrigued.) It will perhaps inspire you in revolt to anchor your hopes a little deeper and a little surer. If nothing else, you’ll stock up on more canned goods next trip to the grocery store.