The seraphic Mrs. Richardson and I settled down the other night to watch the dvd of “The Road,” the film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel. To put it mildly, we both were absolutely blown away by it. Please understand, if you haven’t read the book, that you may find the movie very depressing. But if you get the broad contours of what McCarthy is doing here, I suspect you’ll find the movie absolutely stunning. Frankly, the movie is stunning in its own right, whether you’ve read the novel or not.
Viggo Mortensen and the boy absolutely nail the tenor, tone, and pathos of the characters. The boy is mesmerizing. The scene where he cries after his “Papa’s” encounter with the man who wants to take the boy is one of more emotionally riveting scenes you’ll ever see. Throughout, he is the very picture of innocence surrounded by terror.
Mortensen, as always (or, mostly always), is genius. He has a kind of understated rawness that’s funneled into (1) his utter determination to see the boy survive and (2) his unhinged rage at anybody who threatens them. The occasional narrations are a nice touch, and the flashbacks to his wife are not overdone (as I feared they would be). As an aside, Charlize Theron plays the wife very, very well! I wasn’t sure about that in terms of casting, but she really did a great job in her depiction of the wife.
It’s a cliche, I know, but it must be said that the scenery and the surroundings are themselves a character in the movie (and the novel). Filmed mainly in Pennsylvania, the landscape evokes a sense of nihilistic futility and barrenness that you really have to see to believe. One shot in particular – the shot of the mansion with the cellar – actually captures Faulkneresque Southern gothic like nothing else I’ve ever seen. Furthermore, some of the horizon shots are creepy beyond description. Also, the sounds in the movie – creaking and falling trees, rain hitting the ground, a kind of environmntal groaning – are handled masterfully.
The movie is a devastatingly beautiful and haunting rendition of the book. It resonated deeply with my own visualization of the story while reading the novel. What is more, the spiritual dynamics have not been removed, as so often happens in films, and that’s a good thing. (The scene in the church – which wasn’t in the book – was beautiful in its imagery.)
I read an interview with the director from Christianity Today. He says that McCormac told him he didn’t want the spiritual element removed or softened. Clearly the director listened, and for that he is to be commended. The movie is stronger for it.
Check this movie out. Truly, truly great!