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