the road 
opening night and my movie-nerditude kicks into overdrive. straight up, one of the reasons i fell in love with this story because it is about the love a man has for his son, that is so strong he will risk losing what little shreds of his own humanity to keep his kid alive. then you've got an ashen, post-apocalyptic south-eastern united states -- i understand the road the man and the boy travel is a real road somewhere in tennessee and that all the landmarks, including signage, are actual signs -- and the spare, cinematic prose of cormac mccarthy and the first thing i think about after reading the novel is how well the story will translate to the screen.
how well? depends on your mood and what you want from the cinema. if you head over to the meta-review site rotten tomatoes you'll see that the road is getting mixed reviews. i've read the reviews and been scouring the net well over a year now. still i was pumped to see this movie even if it sucked ass or no.
on the suggestion of anna i called her mother, my mother-in-law, if she wanted to see this flick with me. anna sure didn't want to see it. no one else i know would want to see it. my mother-in-law, a highly educated, deeply sweet woman, not only read the novel but looked forward to seeing it too. she said yes, and as anna went to pick up her sister in preparation for the thanksgiving day feast, annalena picked me up and we headed for the local arthouse, the only theater screening the road in sac.
all this is a preamble of course. the actual experience of the movie was somewhat mixed. as i mentioned in last night's post the projection was too murky and the sound way too low to lose myself in my seat. the trailers, all of them, were just a series of texts declaring each new masterpiece. plus, i could hear every moron in the theater as they chuckled, yes chuckled during certain scenes, and mind you, i'm not against laughter, but for fuck's sake this movie was as far from funny as a movie can get, shifted in their seats and gabbed on their cell phones.
oh christ! the only thing that made it bearable is my conversation with annalena who is, and i say this in all humility, one of the most intelligent persons i know. director john hillcoat's vision is sere and ash and devoid of color. his landscape is lunar and the few people who populate the film look like filthy scarecrows. the acting is brilliant, all around, and i think the movie will need a few more viewings to fully register viggo motensen's and charlize theron's subtle intensity. the boy, played by new-comer kodi smit-mcphee, is a study of feeling. this desolation is all the boy knows and his humanity is utterly heartbreaking.
still, hillcoat's pacing is rather monotonous matching the day-in struggle of the man and boy. hillcoat's directorial style is more like say stanley kubrick, think of the heavy plodding of kubrick's the shining, then say the idiot responsible for the the transformers franchise. like the book hillcoat does not spare us the horrors of this dead world but the actual butchery takes place off-screen. a brilliant touch is hillcoat's use of sound. the movie is mostly silent save for the few musical pieces provided by nick cave, letting the ambient sounds of the screams of the slaughtered, particularly poignant is the house of the cannibals scene, as well as the deep rumbles of falling trees, earthquakes, and raging fires.
luckily hillcoat also refrains from giving the cause of the cataclysm. there are more religious imagery than i would have hoped for which i think is a turn-off for some viewers. yet, that religious hope for humanity rings within the book too. only one scene did i feel was tacked on. the man and boy walk into a village where they soon spot a few spiked skulls. then they see blood covered snow. they make a run for it and hide just in time to witness a woman and her child chased by a large band of cannibals. i think that perhaps this scene should've made it to the cutting room floor.
by the end when the man and boy confront the thief, played by michael k williams, i was deep within the picture. it is a devastating scene. one that would make even the hardest of hearts wince in sympathy for both the man and boy, and the thief. the movie ends upon, at least how i register it, an even more upbeat tone than the novel. there is a moment when we find that life itself might be coming back. at the conclusion i was in tears.
it could be because i'm a rather sentimental goofball. i can still reread certain passages in the novel, especially the conclusion, and be brought to tears. that is the highest compliment i can give both the book and the movie. no, it's not a perfect film, and it is not a movie for everyone but the bleakness of hillcoat's vision of a wonderful novel is one of the most exhilarating movie experiences i've had in some time. i need to see this again and when it reaches the dvd shelves in a few months, i hope, as i think this flick will benefit from the smaller screen and intimate soundsystems, namely my computer and headphones, to achieve the intimacy of vision that hillcoat and his actors have achieved.
annalena and i went home exhausted and bummed out by the movie as only a good film can do. the next day was thanksgiving and anna and her sister were prepping the kitchen for the holiday meal. the house was redolent with the scents of pumpkin pie and dill and the sweet sounds of family vibrant and alive.