If its story is taken literally, “The Road” is a heartwrenching trek. But as metaphor for the appreciation of each and every step along the way of a journey there is tremendous heart. Director John Hillcoat (“The Proposition”), working from an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s tense, stark hymn by playwright and screenwriter Joe Penhall (“Blue/Orange,” “Enduring Love”), underlines the tenacity of memory, the importance of recollection, the hope for a legacy to be left behind. Several years after an unspecified apocalypse, Viggo Mortensen plays a father determined to cross a blasted, chilled, ash-dusted, all-but-dead monochromatic landscape to reach the sea with his young son (Kodi Smit-McPhee). The son never knew his mother (Charlize Theron), whom we see pregnant in flashbacks before and after the deadly disasters. The present-day road is littered with disused vehicles, hungry men without families, cannibals, the usual post-apocalyptic lot. Hillcoat’s tableaux of ravaged, freezing landscapes is austere, gorgeous, yet suffocating as hope seemingly fades. It’s a bleak vision, steeped in sadness and terror. Primal fears are adeptely evoked. McCarthy’s King James-infused novel remains the more powerful effort, as steady as the onscreen rain. The score, largely violin and and piano, is by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. With Guy Pearce, Robert Duvall, Garret Dillahunt, Molly Parker. 119m. Anamorphic 2.40 wisecreen. (Ray Pride)
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.