Earlier today I attended a special screening of The Road the new film based upon the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name. Let me say first that I am inclined to like McCarthy’s writing. Although he was born in the north and now lives in the southwest, he spent many of his formative years in Knoxville Tennessee and his writing has many of the hallmarks of Southern Gothic, though not all of his works take place in the South or involve Southerners. Though I haven’t read much of what he’s written, I plan on giving it a go, starting with The Road beginning this week.
But just because your inclined to like someone’s writing, that doesn’t mean you’ll like the way their work is adapted and depicted on-screen. Having seen The Road film, and without having read the book yet, I can tell you that my initial reaction is very positive. I thought the film was very moving and powerful. It is also a very dark film over all–but there are hints of something better. I say hints, because “glimpses” would even be too strong a word. No, the world of The Road is indeed post-apocalyptic and human society hasn’t just been left in tatters, it’s as though it never existed. While the mood of the movie never quite hits the depths of despair that some films touch on, I would say the “default setting” is darker for a longer period than I can remember seeing in any other film. And then, just as there is some glimmer of hope restored–just a glimmer–the film ends.
At this point I would recommend the film highly to certain people. What do I mean by that? Well, if you appreciate movies that deal with dark subjects in interesting and thoughtful ways, movies that encourage interior questions and provoke thoughts about morals, ethics and the nature of humanity, then you will appreciate this film. I say appreciate purposefully, because I’m not sure “like” is ever an appropriate term for something that deals with these subjects. You’re not going to “like” The Road the same way you “like” chocolate chip cookies; it’s not dealing with a few of your favorite things, but questions that strike at the heart of human nature in not very comfortable ways.
I will be going by the library tomorrow to check out a copy of the book, and when I’m finished I hope to write a review talking about both the book and the film, and reflecting on the themes I see there. Until then, and until November 25th, when the film opens, maybe you’d like to read the book as well. I’d be interested in folks’ comments.
The following is the review of The Road from Publishers Weekly:
Violence, in McCarthy’s postapocalyptic tour de force, has been visited worldwide in the form of a “long shear of light and then a series of low concussions” that leaves cities and forests burned, birds and fish dead and the earth shrouded in gray clouds of ash. In this landscape, an unnamed man and his young son journey down a road to get to the sea. (The man’s wife, who gave birth to the boy after calamity struck, has killed herself.) They carry blankets and scavenged food in a shopping cart, and the man is armed with a revolver loaded with his last two bullets. Beyond the ever-present possibility of starvation lies the threat of roving bands of cannibalistic thugs. The man assures the boy that the two of them are “good guys,” but from the way his father treats other stray survivors the boy sees that his father has turned into an amoral survivalist, tenuously attached to the morality of the past by his fierce love for his son. McCarthy establishes himself here as the closest thing in American literature to an Old Testament prophet, trolling the blackest registers of human emotion to create a haunting and grim novel about civilization’s slow death after the power goes out.