The Road Review

Bleak simplicity was the anguished core of Cormac McCarthy’s novel, The Road. Its tale of a father and son traipsing through life and trying to survive is a touching portrayal of disastrous consequences and the bond between family left unbroken. Adapting that to the big screen was always a run of the gauntlet. No sooner had Viggo Mortensen signed on to play the role of the father, that The Road soon took shape as something different. Something new, and exciting. A remarkable rendition of a text that felt truly, truly bleak. What it lacked was something to compare it to, but it is only now, watching this feature from John Hillcoat, that we can realise it was not needed at all.

Time is of no desire to the father and the son within McCarthy’s novel, and that was the crux. Its leading desire to expend energy on the idea that time is something to fear, rather than to adapt to, was at the core of The Road. It is here, too, and Hillcoat at least understands that. What he cannot grasp, however, is that the silence that found its way into the McCarthy novel was the core of its intrigue. Few words were spoken, and if they were spoken, it was simple. One of the few ways of capturing the sight and sound of the post-apocalyptic world is to provide narration. It is not good narration, nor is it of any real intrigue. At least it is intermittent, any more of it would have stolen the charm of the bleak depravity Hillcoat displays.

But eventually, devastated, grey landscapes blur into one another. What differentiates the hostility of the world around these nameless characters and the individuals that litter it, looking to do harm? Hillcoat may have the glum horrors nailed down, but what he does with them is barebones at best. Melancholic music plays over the top as these characters wander aimlessly, always moving so as not to find themselves encountering the other survivors that trudge the grounds of apocalyptic fallout. Where McCarthy continually conformed to a breakdown of trust between humanity, The Road is less adaptable with that notion, although it does show it every now and then. Not enough to make any real impact, though nothing within The Road has enough of a punch or a meaning behind it. Prose and meaning appear to have been left on the page.

Not particularly concerned with adapting the meaning of McCarthy, instead Hillcoat wishes to depict the world, rather than what it means for the survival of the remaining inhabitants. It is bleak and aimless, just like the book. But the book has the strength of character-based relationships. The father and the son barely speaking makes each of their dialogues together so vital to their relationship. With its adaptation, The Road takes on a lesser form, one that cannot truly adapt to the big moments found within its written form. Mainly because it doesn’t know what to do with those moments, but also because the performers need dialogue, which the book barely has.

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