In my mind westerns and post apocalyptic movies are linked by more than the desolate landscape. Both of these genres explore similar themes including survival under harsh conditions, loneliness, defense of one’s home or home like structure, and I could go on and on. Before making the Road, the director made a real western called the Proposition. Upon seeing this film, I considered it one of the finest examples of neo western ever made. I was excited for what he was going to do next. However when I heard the reviews of the Road, it made me nervous. Many reviewers said that the movie dragged which is the ultimate sin for a film in my book. If you can’t make the middle parts interesting enough for me to pay attention then why make a movie at all? I finally decided to give the Road a chance the other day. I have to say that the reviewers were right.
The Road is about a man and his son after some sort of apocalypse. They must defend themselves from the cold, the cannibals traversing the desolate landscape and the aching pain of hunger in their body. They encounter several different types of people in their journey but it all ends up being some sort of disappoint every time. The entire time the man is having visions of his wife and how she decided to kill herself. This was about all of the movie that I can tell you about because by the hour mark I had so successfully zoned out that I barely registered anything else about this snoozer of a movie.
The only great thing about this film (besides the way it was shot… I really liked the gray atmosphere that was created) was Viggo Mortensen. His uncanny ability to give you a whole range of emotions seemingly effortlessly was fascinating. My favorite scene was when in he was at the table with his wife discussing suicide. The heartbreak that the character was so plainly experiencing was evident on his face without him having to say anything at all. These emotions were played in stark contrast to the mother and the son who both played their parts with uncanny flatness. At certain times in the movie I wanted to slap that kid. I just couldn’t understand why the kid insisted on being so annoying. There is a way to play this kind of character that wouldn’t make him completely insufferable but the actor did not achieve that.
Unfortunately I don’t know if we will ever get a movie like the Proposition out of John Hillicoat again. It seems like he is well on his way to become a journeyman director. A director that will get the job done but will deliver an inferior product or a not very interesting product at the very least. Not everyone can be great I suppose…