Based on the amazing book by Cormac McCarthy, The Road (2009, dir. John Hillcoat) is a post-apocalyptic drama that follows a man (Viggo Mortensen) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) as they attempt to survive after a mysterious cataclysmic event that has killed most plant and animal life. The man and his son are travelling south towards the coast in order to avoid an inevitably harsh winter, facing the brutalities of both nature and fellow man.
The Road is one of those films (and books) where you have to take five minutes afterwards to think about happy things so that you don’t spend the rest of your day in a totally depressed state. The whole film is so bleak, dark, and depressing. I really loved the book, and I felt that the film was quite a faithful translation. The book is deliberately ambiguous about certain elements of the plot, and the film attempts to tie up those loose ends in a manner that is still faithful to the essence of McCarthy’s characteristically depressing vision. The performances of both Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee are just as good as one another, with Smit-McPhee in particular being a highlight.
However, there’s only so much bleakness and darkness one can take before their brain shuts off, and to some extent I think this was just too much for me, even though I loved the book. Luckily, The Road plays host to some of the most beautiful cinematography that I’ve seen lately, so my brain was able to stay active and awake. The visuals are undoubtedly dark, but with such grittiness and texture in each shot that your eye has so much to look at. There are so many interesting patterns, and spellbinding symmetry and asymmetry, that draws your eye in, no matter the reprehensible visions on display.
The cinematographer is Javier Aguirresarobe, who also worked on Blue Jasmine (2013), Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), Warm Bodies (2013), and two Twilight films – New Moon (2009) and Eclipse (2010). Aguirresarobe is probably one of my favourite cinematographers as of late. All of his work has such great texture and plays upon the use of colour to create mood and tension. In the case of The Road, the colours are largely greys, taupes, and khakis, but with the occasional bursts of colour that almost seem like a beacon of hope for the man and his son.
Here is a rather large selection of my favourite shots from The Road. As always, I’ve tried to mix everything up so that the story is not completely obvious. Also, if your computer screen is generally darker then most, then you probably won’t be able to see half of these.
Film rating: 3.5/5
Cinematography rating: 4.5/5
Watch the trailer here.
Watch this film at Amazon!
Thanks for posting those wonderful photos. I really need to watch this film again. I liked the book as well, and I liked the film well enough, but as you say, there’s only so much grimness you can take … thankfully, there’s never enough grimoireness 😉 … but I do think I need to see it again as I didn’t really like it all that much, and I wonder if a second viewing would be more … enjoyable seems the wrong word. But your post also has me wondering: where has Viggo Mortensen been hiding recently?
Thank you for your lovely comment Niall! 🙂 Where indeed has Viggo Mortensen gone? He was great in this!
i don’t think i’ve seen him since A Dangerous Method. That can’t be right, surely? Surely he’s done stuff since then?
He was pretty good as Sigmund Freud in A Dangerous Method, which I only remembered about five minutes ago. Other than that, I don’t think I’ve seen him in anything else recently!
Missed this when it came out – as u say: there’s only so much bleakness 1 can take.
No cinema release in my part of the wrld! Will get round to it eventually
U shld try something lighter; let me help:
Jupiter Descending – love that pun! Still haven’t seen that one and I’m tempted to give it a go, even though everyone says it’s awful!
U brave girl! Hmm, okay, enjoy th CGI if u can, bt pls – pretty pls – for heavens sake put some earplugs in to protect u from th dire dialogue. Good luck!
It really was beautifully shot. So, so bleak though.
Super bleak, I needed to think happy thoughts for five minutes afterwards so that I could enjoy the rest of my weekend!
Thanks so much again! 🙂
Thanks, Anna. I loved the book, but felt physically wrecked and distraught when I’d finished it. It was one of, maybe THE most harrowing reading experiences of my adult life. I’m not sure I could cope with the film but your stills have given me a good flavour of what I might expect. Maybe I’ll wait until Spring or Summer.
Oh yeah, definitely wait for the weather to perk up before watching this, otherwise the bleakness may seem too much!
This was the most depressing movie I have ever seen,
For me, it’s probably a competition between this, and Dancer in the Dark, and Grave of the Fireflies for most depressing film. But no one is really a winner in that kind of competition.
Grave of the Fireflies is right up there as well. I agree with you though. I don’t mind a bleak film or an unhappy ending but sometimes it’s just too much to actually qualify as entertainment.
I’m not a big fan of this movie, but I can’t deny that it was beautiful to look at. Great pics!
Thanks heaps Wendell! 😀
Cool review yo, nicely written and you sum up the film very well. I saw this film in the cinema with a friend of mine and we both agreed that it was very good. While it is depressing, bleak and ultimately not an easy watch, at the same time it is very beautiful and heartfelt. I love the dialogue in the film, some it me and my friend loved to quote. I haven’t seen this film since I watched it in the cinema, though I have it on DVD and I think I should give it a watch again.
Thanks heaps! 😀 Watching this in the cinema must have been an overwhelming experience in terms of the bleakness and the pacing. And you’re right, the dialogue is great, I think most of it’s pulled from the book. Cormac McCarthy has such an amazing talent with words!
Fab photos Anna. And a great review. I must pick up a copy of this, beautiful cinematography indeed.
Thanks V! 🙂 If you’re a cinematography fan it’s definitely one to watch.
I haven’t seen this yet but my boyfriend did and he told me to not see it because it was really depressing. Which seems to confirm what you said here. However, it also seems like a really decent movie especially with all those beautiful shots. It definitely has me intrigued.
Your boyfriend is right! Although it really is beautiful, it is so dark and depressing. Definitely worth a watch though!
This was a fantastic movie and an even better book. This is one of the few so-called “post-apocalyptic” stories that I think gets it right with respect to what living in a “post human” world would really be like. There would be nothing “cool” about it. No romance. It would be horrible and brutal and painful and hopeless and dark and devoid of compassion. The only people left would be those who were willing to do absolutely anything they had to do to survive, up to and including killing and eating other human beings. The only thing harder than surviving would be finding a reason to survive, as is beautifully, if disturbingly, illustrated by the decision of the boy’s mother to end her own life rather than watch her son be consumed by the darkness. The cinematography in this movie is perfectly matched to it’s forlorn subject matter. Definitely not a “feel good” film, but an experience that is worth having, nevertheless!