John Hillcoat’s The Road

Old Man: I knew this was coming. They were warning us.

After reading Shute’s novel last week, On The Beach, watching Hillcoat’s The Road offered the opposite spectrum of the two-sided perception that the world will one day come to an end. The novel focuses on the Apocalypse, the events leading up to the end of the world. Society knows that the world is ending and they have accepted this reality. They are not trying to survive but rather live their lives as best they can until the inevitable occurs. The same cannot be said for the characters in the film. During this PostApocalyptic landscape, the father and son in the film are just trying to survive. The world is deteriorating throughout the film. Food is hard to come by, trees are falling, and humans and animals alike are hard to come by.

The son’s mother decides that she cannot handle the circumstances and leaves her family behind. When she is giving birth to the son, she shows how much she desperately wants to hold back and not bring her child into the current version of the world. The father’s main purpose throughout the film is to toughen his son up and teach him the ways in which to survive, because one day the father will not be there. If thought about in great detail, the only true hero in the story is the son. The mother leaves when the going gets tough. The family is looking out for his son but has a hard time helping the old man, Eli, or the African American who steals their cart. The son is the only one who worries about the well being of others, in a world where that doesn’t make true sense. Why worry about others when you’re struggling so much to care for yourself?

Finding food was hard enough for the father and son. I didn’t like how convenient the stash of food and beverages came underground, but the film does turn back into its predictable state of depression. I thought finding the resources would lead to the father and son meeting other people like themselves. They hear the dog barking and the father tells his son they have to move because it’s unsafe to stay in that same location. If he had just known who was above ground, perhaps that family could have helped him too before his death.

The main problem I have with this movie is the plot itself. The father and son are trying to stay alive, but for what? For what purpose? Just to stay alive? The father has no wife and the son no mother. It presents the question of the circumstances being worth living through. It’s hard for me to speak my opinion about such a drastic situation, but would you really want to live in the world the film is portraying? You don’t know when you’re going to find food to eat, and you also have to worry about your own race, the human race, and determine whether you’re dealing with humans who are cannibals waiting to take a bite out of you or just good people like yourself trying to survive. The gun that was carried around was a symbol of temptation and sometimes I wish they had just pulled the trigger. The son finding a new family to be with might give him some false hope for now, but it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to survive passed a couple of months.

Motherly Woman: I’m so glad to see you. We were following you. Did you know that? We saw you with your papa. We’re so lucky. We were so worried about you, and now we don’t have to worry about a thing. How does that sound? Is that okay?
The Boy: Okay.

Hillcoat’s film doesn’t really present a sense of hope going forward. The last lines of the film have the boy saying okay to the mother of the new family. He has determined that they are the good people and wants to stay with them. But nothing in the film predicts that there is a better land waiting for them. Nothing hints that nature is going to return to form, that life is going to come back to Earth. The only sign of nature that we see is the beetle that the son finds that flies away. It’s interesting how our society has become preoccupied with the thoughts about what comes after an apocalypse. Let’s say December 21st, 2012 will be the day where a horrible event wipes out the entire world. But some people survive. A few people are still alive the day after. What then? What can those people really do? Struggle to survive for x amount of days? If the world is going to end, it might as well take everyone with them. At least that’s what people should hope for. The suffering that would occur on a dying Earth is not something anyone should want to experience. You won’t be living for a true purpose. It wouldn’t be for your family, your friends, your job, your career, your livelihood. You would be living for the hell of it. You would just be living for survival. And your survival, no matter how long you are able to delay it, would have an expiration date.

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