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The Road

Digital One Star
I had read the book by Cormac McCarthy which had received great recognition and had been adapted for film, and I have to say, even going against popular opinion and expecting to be hung, drawn and quartered for it, I didn't like it. I struggled to read the constant droning flow of the narrative, and with little happening and next to no explanations, I fought to complete it. That's more or less what I expected from the film and was concerned that it would turn out to be a very similar story.

Fortunately I was wrong, the film is better than the book, although not by enough to make it a really great film. For me it feels as though a lot of this film's success relies on the success of the book, and if it stood on its own I think the acclaim would be much, much less.

So let me look at the film as it stands on its own, away from the book ( / ).

Plot.pngTheRoad.jpgThe plot of the film is simple; a devastating event has hit America and most likely the entire world, wiping out vast amounts of life. What's left alive is either slowly dying or fighting for survival. While those left alive fight over resources and food, other life is non-existent and some are turning to the only source of food left to them, other humans.

Through this terrible wasteland a man and his young son are walking to the coast, avoiding others and trying to stay alive and trying to find something more.

TheFilm.pngI struggled with the story of the film, for we have absolutely no indication of what the event was that started this devastation, we have no explanation of why the two characters are heading to the coast, and while the story does try and touch on why the wife and mother isn't with them, it hints at something and then lets it walk away from us.

To be fair it does give us a little more than the book as there was more of the couple before the event, and their lives together. It shows us a little of their bond, allows us to connect to them as people just a little bit, and tries to explain why the father and son are on their own.

It doesn't, but it does go further than the book and allow us to see that they were once like us rather than characters in a fantastical future world. That connection is important because once we have that with the father it's far easier to identify with the father-son relationship.

Although we gain more understanding there, we're still at a complete loss why the pair are heading across the country to the coast and why they give up a couple of chances and just keep going. In fact the film is littered with moments where you question why characters, particularly the father, have made the decisions they have. Again it feels like the film had to stay close to the book so it just replicated it as closely as possible. It's almost as if they were scared to question it and change it.

It really started with the wife, we should have had a little more about the timeline, when the event happened and the pregnancy, and definitely more about her growing depression, if that's was what was happening, and what led her to her final decision.

Couple this with the attitude of the father from the beginning of the event and the pregnancy, and this would be the basis for the relationships and indeed the entire story, and yet we just don't explore it enough to give us more than the faintest whiff of what happened, never mind trying to build a foundation for the rest of the film.

I could guess what the wife did and, if that's what happened, I could even see that some would choose to walk away despite having family around them to fight for and love, but in the film I just didn't buy it, there wasn't enough to give me that understanding and make me believe.

As for the husband, I felt he was a little too weak willed for me, perhaps this was the intention but if he was protecting his only son I feel as though he would give him more advice and guidance through the whole experience rather than just teaching him how to kill them both should he need to.

He didn't seem to have any goal or purpose, for himself or his son, if he'd had enough presence of mind and drive to continually push home how to use the gun then surely he would have taught him other things and have some idea of why they were going and why.

This issue is perhaps brought to a head for me when his son asks him if there's anything on the other side of the water and he replies with some fairy tale twisted logic rather like a Santa story when you would think that a father who had fought so long and hard to keep his son alive would have educated him a little and perhaps explain that there could be life out there and give him something to hope and fight for.

However his very subtle and gentle decline through the film did work rather well and Viggo Mortenson's portrayal of the character was good, as was Kodi Smit-McPhee as his son.

There are some powerful moments through the film and some harrowing ones too which do manage to reach out to your emotions. However I kept coming back to the problems with the film and while we were watching some of the best moments of the film, the worst were creeping in.

A great example of this was the scene with the shelter. This really brought the father and son together as well as bringing us closer to their relationship, and yet it felt such a missed out without the back story that would have connected us to them earlier, then there's the flimsiest of reasons for them leaving, and the drive to get to the coast seemed to override everything, and yet we just never knew why.

The ending is a little more positive than the book leaving some more hope for the audiences and there are a few possibilities to suggest that all is not lost, but I have to say that something that did impress me was how well they stayed away from the total Hollywood overhaul.

Picture.pngThere was a very bleak and washed out look for the film that worked well to deliver the feeling of the world dying, however some of the framing felt a little odd at times, almost as though they were trying to keep the camera low and avoid showing too much of the sky, which they would either have to filter or adjust in post production.

However at times the picture is way too dark, and the PlayStation 3 doesn't do well with dark film pictures as it is, you should see what it does with DivX type videos, in fact there are a few scenes where the picture is so dark you couldn't see anything that was happening on screen at all.

Overall.pngThe Road seems to want to tell us a story but doesn't want to tell us anything of consequence, anything such as the background, the story of the events that led us to this point, the story of the wife and the husband, the reason they're heading to the coast. For the film it's as if the book is getting in the way, and while the style of the telling of the story might raise positive commentary in a book form, it shouldn't in a film format.

The Road looks good and certainly would be a great film with a much improved story around it, but here it feels like something incomplete and much lighter than the subject should allow it to be.

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Movable Type 3.34