Telluride 2009 Review: John Hillcoat's The Road

September 7, 2009

The Road

Beautifully bleak. That's the best way to describe John Hillcoat's The Road, which I saw yesterday evening in Telluride. Although it's a rather depressing story overall, it's told with such an incredible amount of vigor and passion, that it's actually possible to enjoy. Especially because director John Hillcoat and screenwriter Joe Penhall made sure to keep the integrity of Cormac McCarthy's novel intact and stay as true to his words as possible. It seems like a near impossible book to adapt, but they did the absolute best job they could. For as bleak as it was, I was never bored, and it was never bland at all, which is quite an accomplishment.

Set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, where every tree is burnt out or dead, nothing but greyness remains, and the sun never shines, The Road is about a father (Viggo Mortensen) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee). It's a story about these two and their relationship as they keep walking down the road to reach the coast. This world is filled with savages, cannibals who band together in groups and survive by killing others, hunting whoever they find and scavenging through houses, cars, and shopping malls. But the father and son want to be the "good guys" and they just keep on pressing on, trying to survive each and every day.

This is a very hard film to write about, at least for me. The focus is not on the apocalypse, but solely on the relationship between these two. While it's not necessarily a thriller, there are numerous tense moments, just because you never know who is going to be around the corner or off in the distance. It didn't take long for me to really care for their struggle to survive, since it's so desperate. You feel every triumph and every scare. This wouldn't have been possible if it weren't for the stellar performances from Mortensen and newcomer Smit-McPhee, who together make up a family that will be tugging at your heart throughout most of the film.

Although it's best described as beautifully bleak, The Road still is a great film, with wonderfully conceived dreary cinematography, a superb attention to detail, a heart-wrenching story, but with performances that will leave you convinced these two really are father and son. It's hard to fall in love with, just because the nature of the story, but it doesn't disappoint. If you're looking for a fantastic film to see this fall, this is it.

Telluride Rating: 8 out of 10

Find more posts: Opinions, Telluride 09



i am extremely excited for this... can't wait.

tarco on Sep 7, 2009


Sounds pretty awesome and I remember the trailer was pretty good, hope it comes over here in the UK.

CrimsonSnake on Sep 7, 2009


Great to see such a positive review in an American media outlet! ;->

Laurie Mann on Sep 7, 2009


Can't wait to see this one!

Robbie on Sep 7, 2009


I saw the trailer again in the theatres, and I hope it's like an Inglourious Basterds type situation where there's more than meets the eye. The trailer right now is gritty and suspenseful, but it still reeks of your normal post-apocalypse movie. Looks too much like War of the Worlds meets Deliverance right now. I haven't read the book or read much about the movie, but I hope the cannibal truckers plot isn't the main focus of the movie. There's Robert Duvall and Guy Pearce, so there probably is more to it.

Greedo on Sep 7, 2009


aweome, can't wait.

Xerxex on Sep 7, 2009


This is my absolute favorite book....NEED to see this movie.

Chris W on Sep 7, 2009


I read the book and I hated it even tho I loved it if that makes any sense, its so hopeless but so well done, I think the movie will be the same way.

Richard on Sep 7, 2009


I thought the picture above was from Where The Wild Things Are!

Sister Jasmine Noxema Tapioca on Sep 7, 2009


by bleak is that in the same vein as Blindness?

nelson on Sep 7, 2009


Greedo - the script is supposedly very true to the book, which focuses on the relationship of the father and son. The trucker part is a very small part of the book, as are the rest of the action scenes seen in the trailer. Most of it is just the Father and Son trying to live and find shelter and food and deal with the emotional trauma of the situation. Also, all of the stuff at the beginning of the trailer with natural disasters and whatnot is added - it was never in the book. The reasons for the apocalypse were never explained in the book. I hope you see it and read it. It truly is a treasure of a read.

Kelley on Sep 7, 2009


I've read 3 works of fiction in the past 10 years, and "The Road" is randomly one of them. I read the entire book in a day and half (two sittings) which I've never done. (I prefer non-fiction). This story is absolutely fantastic, and I agree with the reviewer. When you think about the story you almost wonder what there was to like about it because it really is so bleak, but I think it's the over arching theme of love and integrity that's so drawing. I also think that because the end of the world was never explained and because the characters are never given names the story becomes more personal to the reader/audience. I found myself wondering how I would handle a situation like this if it were to ever happen to me. Could I be the "good guy" above all else? How would I handle survival? I'm hoping that aspect of the story is not lost seeing it visually on film because I thought that was the best aspect of the book. I've seen a few clips of this movie online (oddly, important scenes that I'm surprised they leaked) and the writer and director stayed very close to the dialogue of the book. I was impressed. I'm glad they didn't turn this movie into another "apocalypse" action flick. Not that the world needs more drama, but hollywood needs more originality and I think this story is a unique and quite possibly more realistic take on the apocalypse. I'm looking forward to this movie more than any film this fall. I was disappointed by Blindness last year (one of the worst films I've ever seen in my entire life) and I'm hoping that this film will more than make up it.

ImaginaryVisionary on Sep 7, 2009


I have only listened to the audio-book version narrated by Tom Stechschulte ... about four times. The story is amazing. "The boy" and "the man" are the names of the characters in the book. I will never forget the way the narrator does their voices. I will never forget the boy pleading and crying to his father "what about the little boy". Gut wrenching but beautiful, sometimes so happy you smile to yourself. If the movie is half as good as the audio version we're in for THE post-apocalyptic film of our lifetime. This is the Schindler's List of its genre.

Jon on Sep 7, 2009


I know its a well-loved book,but I just couldn't stand it.Brief,minimal sentences meant to create some sort of ambience for the story,but i thought it was too simplistic and would've preferred if the scenarios were laid out in the flesh.I know the way it was written gave it a harsh sense of immediacy,but i really felt it was way too bare. anyway,we're here for the film not the book.will go for viggo

twispious on Sep 7, 2009


have you read the book? :/

Jimbone on Sep 7, 2009


Its not bleak like blindness, its bleak like all life is over.

Richard on Sep 7, 2009


i've watched the trailer & thought it looked cool, i personally can't wait for the film.

zetsu on Sep 8, 2009

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