Saturday, June 3, 2017

Film Review: THE ROAD

There's not much in the way of perks on this vacation.
Are you sick and tired of all the political bullshit dominating the news? Does the fact that presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner got a ten million dollar graduation gift from his father make you reach for the Pepto-Bismol? Do you wish Hillary Clinton would just shut her trap and stay home baking cookies for her grandchildren? If you answered yes to any of the preceding questions you may be in need of a vacation from reality, and I've got the perfect one. Dim the lights, get comfortable, and watch The Road from beginning to end. I guarantee when it's over you'll kiss the ground beneath your feet and declare, "All's right with the world!" Last night I took that very vacation and this morning my coffee never tasted so good and the sky never looked so blue.

First released in 2009, The Road stars Viggo Mortenson as a nameless Man, loving father to his young son. The two are survivors clinging to one another following an apocalyptic event that is never explained but obviously was literally the last straw. There once was a beautiful wife and mother (Charlize Theron) who we see in flashbacks, but she opted out early. Imploring her husband to shoot her and their son and then himself rather than fight and die in such horror, she explains, "Many other families are doing it." But the Man opts for life, holding out for better days somewhere down that eponymous road.

In this bleak future there are few people or animals or rivers or lakes or trees or crops to speak of. There's only Death, represented as grey skies, abandoned shacks, dilapidated buildings and roving "bad guys" armed with rifles out hunting protein. The Man and his boy are headed south hoping to find better weather, not that there is better weather anywhere since everything is covered with nuclear ash, or something very much like it. The whole business is accompanied by gloomy, maniacal music perfect for slitting your wrists, if you are so inclined.

Saying this film is grim is like saying Hitler found the Jews annoying. To give you an idea, my favorite scene in the Bleakness Department is when the Man uncovers a hidden cache of naked, skinny, starving, half-demented, wounded, moaning and groaning humans locked in the basement of what looks like an abandoned house from the outside but is really the local barbecue joint for the band of survivors scouring the countryside for food, i.e. people still breathing. That bunch in the basement are like so many chickens in the freezer. Several large Weber grills are in the yard, awaiting the dinner hour. (Yum.)

And more like that. The Road was adapted from Cormac McCarthy's novel of the same name, which won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. According to reviews, the book is much more gruesome than the film in its depiction of cannibalism, so if that's your thing you may want to pick up a copy. And be sure to have that Pepto-Bismol handy.


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