Road to Nowhereby Dave Durbach / 28.01.2010
Films dealing with the Earth’s demise tend to give the big-A the Hollywood once-over: CGI tidal waves, surround-sound explosions, panic in the streets, beautiful girls screaming, and plenty of room for the triumph of the human spirit, sappy love interests and claptrap patriotism.
What happens next though, after the storm has subsided and man is left to his own devices on a dead planet? Revered American author Cormac McCarthy pondered the question and came up with The Road, a novel that won him the Pulitzer in 2007. Of course we all know a good book does not a movie make, but considering the last McCarthy novel to be adapted for the screen was the Oscar-magnet No Country for Old Men, news of The Road’s imminent translation was quickly hailed as a sure thing.
And that it is. The Road tells the story of a world utterly without hope. All plants and animals have died. The sun provides no warmth; winter grows ever colder. Earthquakes rack the land, felling forests of long-dead trees. The few humans that remain are forced to scrounge for what little food remains, certain only of their impending death. Cannibalism is rife. The only common emotions binding people are desperation, fear and mutual distrust. These are the circumstances in which the Man (Viggo Mortensen) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) set off on a southerly journey to the coast, in the hope of finding something better there, armed with a gun with two bullets (for suicide as much as self-defence), pushing a trolley of their belongings, sleeping in abandoned cars, scavenging through desolate homesteads in search of food and shelter. They encounter some strangers along this road: some dangerous, some benign, all without hope. In doing so, the Man, intent on providing for his son, has to counter the boy’s naïve desire to care for the strangers, aware that sharing will only hasten their own demise.
Will they reach their destination, and even if they do, what can the future possibly hold for father and son, in a world where all hope is dead?
Depressing but by no means disappointing, dark but illuminating, the film offers sharp insight into the animal side of our human nature, and a thought-provoking glimpse at what our planet could look like one day soon. It’s the American debut of Australian-born director John Hillcoat, better known for his work on music videos and documentaries with the likes of Depeche Mode, Bush and INXS. He and Spanish cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe (Twilight) paint a suitably bleak landscape of charred wilderness and deserted buildings, with Nick Cave and Warren Ellis handling the score. The film also features performances from Charlize Theron (as the Man’s suicidal wife), Robert Duvall and Guy Pearce.
The Road opens at cinemas on the 5th of February.