"The Road" (2009)

Released in 2009, The Road is an intense drama movie set in a post-apocalyptic world. It is based on the 2006 book of the same name, written by author Cormac McCarthy, who is of American descent. The movie was directed by Australian director John Hillcoat, with screenplay by Joe Penhall, who studied the novel in great detail and adapted the script to suit the big screen.

The storyline revolves around a father (The Man) and son (The Boy) trying to survive in a barren and freezing cold America. The pair attempt to make a perilous journey to the coast, where they hope they can find salvation in the form of warmer weather and food supplies. It is interesting how none of the characters in this movie are named, we are simply given their roles when the credits display on screen.

The movie stars Danish actor Viggo Mortensen, of Lord Of The Rings fame as the wounded father, and Kodi Smit-McPhee as his son. Both received praise for their portrayal of the respective roles, particularly for the depth and realism that they brought to it. Here we see a loving father who does everything to ensure his son's survival in a world ravaged by extinction.

The Road was shot predominantly in Pennsylvania, but it also features scenes filmed from a number of locations scattered across America. The film contains a theme that can resonate with nearly every person who watches it - we have all contemplated from time to time what the end of the world would be like. The directing in The Road impressively delivers a message of isolation and grittiness associated with the effort to survive a post-apocalyptic earth.

The Road was released in cinemas in November 2009. It was a movie that went under the radar a bit. In its opening weekend, The Road grossed a total of $1.5 million. This is a fair bit lower than the $25 million budget that the movie was filmed on. It only started to garner a reputation as an impressive movie when critics praised it. Before this, as evidenced by the opening weekend figures, not many movie lovers knew about it.

The story begins with a father and son going through an immense struggle to survive in a world that is on the brink of extinction. Survivors scavenge for any food supplies they can find, and some resort to cannibalism. The father and son are faced with the arduous and unenviable task of hunting for supplies and warding off anyone who tries to loot or even eat them. The father is armed with a gun. The problem is that the gun only has two bullets left.

Father and son travel towards the coast in the hope of warmth and a possible way out of the mess that they find themselves in. Via a series of flashbacks, we are informed that the man was saving three bullets in case of capture, one for him, his son, and his wife to commit suicide if they were captured by the gangs of cannibals that trawl the streets in search for survivors. It is revealed that the father's wife disappeared into the night after her husband shot and killed an intruder. Here we see the dramatic possibilities that people contemplate when faced with a survival situation. This movie does not hide us from the grim reality of being one of the few people left on earth. We can all imagine that this is exactly what it would be like.

The man and his son go through a series of contrasting events. Firstly, they experience the morbid actuality of the situation when they stumble across prisoners locked in the basement of a mansion. The prisoners are trapped and are acting as a food supply for their captors. Nobody said a world on the verge of extinction would be a nice place to live in and this scene highlights that in abundance. Next, the men find hope as they discover food and supplies. In any situation hope is what keeps us going and we as viewers can resonate with clinging on to hope when a situation in life looks bleak.

All hope is seemingly lost though when they are looted of all of their supplies, including food. The situation turns again from hope to utter bleakness. We can see the psychological difficulty of it all taking its toll as the boy gets upset after they are robbed. The father tries to console him. Even after receiving a mortal wound from an arrow, he tries to convey to his son the importance of taking care of yourself but also remaining human. This is a vital message that transcends a mere movie scene. We get the sense that the author (and screenplay writer) are trying to deliver a piece of life advice pertinent to us all - it is important to take care of ourselves, but to do it while retaining the qualities that make us human such as compassion and empathy.

The movie comes to its conclusion with the death of the father and the intervention of a concerned family, who had followed the father and son for some time. This is a contrasting conclusion that follows the trend of the precluding part of the movie, On the one sense the audience feels relieved and happy for the boy, that he will be taken care of. On the other hand, we feel a degree of sadness and empathy for the dying father.

The Road is a hard-hitting, yet important movie that shows us the struggle of living in a world blighted by near-extinction and the desire to survive. It is one of those movies that is essential to see, despite the morbid theme. The performances by lead cast members Mortensen and Smit-McPheec as the father and son duo are striking and memorable. Critics and viewers alike were impressed by the realism they brought to the characters. It is a movie that really makes you think about the qualities that make us human and the difficulty of retaining those qualities when our lives are under serious threat.

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