It’s easy to get bogged down in life’s day to day annoyances — the crummy job, flagging relationship, or raging case of hemorrhoids that turn every pair of your underwear into a Japanese flag. These things are enough to send anyone into a shit fit, right?
Well then, hold on tight to your plasma screen TV, ya spoiled brat, because The Road tears asunder all that modern society holds dear. Not only are there no longer any motorized carts at the grocery store, there is no grocery store at all. There’s no industry. No agriculture. No animal husbandry. Poof! All gone! Smiles are practically extinct, too. And if people still bother to have sex with one another, it’s probably done ruefully, listlessly and with lots of apocalypse tears. Plus, dirt probably gets into all the crevices, and no one wants that.
We’re never told what exactly happened, but it looks as if the earth were punched in the face by the fist of God. It’s a world of fire and ash, a world without green. The landscape is a tableau of dead trees and deserted highways. All the animals are dead and any canned food left in the rubble has long since been scavenged, for the most part. Gone are the ethical parameters that rein in people’s baser instincts. Vegetarianism? Hoo-hah! A relic of a daintier time, my friend. Now, with an empty stomach and a buck knife, that button-nosed kid next to the burned out Chevy looks like a walking buffet.
Viggo Mortensen, as The Man, looks like a scarecrow version of his Lord of the Rings character. He is haunted by the suicide of his wife. But, having been tasked with the responsibility of protecting his son, he pushes ahead with his rickety shopping cart, knowing only that he’d rather put one foot in front of the other than give up. “When I have nothing else, I try to dream the dreams of a child’s imaginings,” he intones. The Boy, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee, carries with him the kindness and purity of a child despite what he’s experienced. When they meet strangers on the road, he implores his father to be merciful and share their food, much to his father’s chagrin. Trust is a waning commodity, after all.
The Road is a tale of endurance, duty, and mutual commitment. The Man and The Boy stumble through endless blight armed with nothing but caged necessity, a revolver, and two bullets (later just one). They’re headed toward a coast that may or may not grant them a reprieve from the waking hell that is Post-Convenience Store America. And as they slog their way through cannibals, injuries, sickness, starvation, and an unrelenting pall of gloom, The Man still has to look in the mirror every once in a while and contend with…
I give it 3.5 wails of despair out of 4.
Okay, now go hug all of your piddly modern conveniences. I won’t judge you. Go on.