Friday, October 16, 2009

London Film Fest Day 3 - THE ROAD

Re-uniting the team behind the brutal, brilliant Aussie Western, THE PROPOSITION, director John Hillcoat has created a devastating and faithful adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize winning novel about The Man and his son, The Boy, journeying South, trying to stay alive, in a post-apocalyptic world.

A terrible natural disaster has occurred - no-one explains why or how - and the world is left covered in ash, perpetually fogged and growing colder by the day. The animals have died, the trees are falling, and the canned food and fuel are fast running out. With a bleak future, many families have chosen to commit suicide. This is the view of The Wife - she thinks survival is not living, and that it's cruel to bring a child into this world. Her husband, The Man, disagrees. He sees survival, "carrying the fire", as the only choice of "the good guys". His wife suspects that deep down, this might be because he just doesn't have the courage to kill himself and his family. And so, a
few years later, The Man and his beloved son travel south. They are tired, hungry, and the young child has seen things no-one should see. The Man wants to train The Boy to be hardened - to survive - even when The Man has died. The Boy wants to share food with starving passers-by. And even though The Man lives in fear and disgust of the cannibals - and wants to preserve his humanity and avoid such degradation - slowly, slightly, he becomes as cruel, culminating in an horrific humiliation scene.

THE ROAD is a stark, brutal, provocative and deeply affecting film. Not as unbearable as the book, but maybe having read the book I was prepared better. Viggo Mortensen gives a career-best performance as The Man and Kodi Smit-McPhee is heart-breaking as The Boy. We utterly believe in and care about their relationship. Charlize Theron is convincing as the nihilistic Wife. John Hillcoat creates a savage wasteland in which they travel but best of all, Nick Cave and Warren Ellis create a wonderful score.

My only criticism of the film is that the ending is less ambiguous than the novel. But I shan't say more for fear or ruining the outcome for people who have read the book. It's the only thing that prevents this from being one of my films of the year.

THE ROAD played Venice, Toronto and London 2009. It goes on release in South Korea next week. It opens in the USA in November 25th; in Belgium and France on December 2nd; in Russia on December 10th; in December 25th in Finland; in Norway and the UK on January 8th; in Argentina on January 21st; in Australia on January 28th; in the Netherlands and Brazil on February 4th; and in New Zealand on March 18th.

Eventual tags: charlize theron, cormac mccarthy, drama, guy pearce, javier aguirresarobe, joe penhall, john hillcoat, kodi smit-mcphee, nick cave, robert duvall, warren ellis, viggo mortensen

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