The Road

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - SEVEN DAYS -

(2009) 15

Sun­day, 10.30pm, BBC2

This adap­ta­tion of ac­claimed Amer­i­can au­thor Cor­mac Mccarthy’s 2006 novel is an in­tel­li­gent yet bleak story about sur­vival. It is told in haunt­ing style by Aus­tralian di­rec­tor John Hill­coat, and fea­tures mov­ing per­for­mances from Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-mcphee as a fa­ther and his ten-year-old son, strug­gling to live in the smok­ing em­bers of a post-apoc­a­lyp­tic Earth.

Mortensen is the man, Smit-mcphee is the boy. We never learn their names, and nor do we learn how the world came to be a waste­land yield­ing noth­ing but star­va­tion and hor­ror for its scat­tered sur­vivors. The film isn’t in­ter­ested in the past, but in­stead looks for­ward – al­beit into a fu­ture where noth­ing but the faintest glim­mer of hope ex­ists.

Con­stantly on the move, man and boy face lone­li­ness and cloy­ing hunger. They hide from no­madic bands of can­ni­bals who eat fel­low hu­mans as the only way to claim any power over their des­per­ate sit­u­a­tion, de­fined by a stark lack of choice – ei­ther eat them, or sub­mit to hunger and death. Hope, then, how­ever slight, is the only rea­son to go on.

As the man’s re­silience fades, along with his phys­i­cal strength, the boy takes on more re­spon­si­bil­ity. While it is hard not to share the man’s creep­ing de­spon­dency, the boy’s in­no­cence – he was born into the world as it is – pro­vides the light in an oth­er­wise re­lent­lessly dark place.

The Road doesn’t flinch from show­ing the vi­o­lence of a fu­ture where civil­i­sa­tion has com­pletely bro­ken down. But it does also show how hu­man­ity is a spark within us all, one that only we can ex­tin­guish, but also one that can be nur­tured.

The story be­hind the film

John Hill­coat (above) works reg­u­larly with mu­si­cian and com­pa­triot Nick Cave, and asked him to work on the screen­play for The Road. Cave de­clined, con­sid­er­ing Cor­mac Mccarthy sacro­sanct. In­stead, Cave pro­vided the sparse score, and wrote the screen­play for Hill­coat’s next film. Law­less, set for re­lease in Au­gust, is a De­pres­sion-era Western star­ring Tom Hardy and an­other of Hill­coat’s Aussie reg­u­lars, Guy Pearce. Si­mone An­drews

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