Having recently read the ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy, I decided to watch the film version, intrigued by how one might go about translating McCarthy’s powerful words to the screen. Directed by John Hillcoat and featuring Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee as the father and son, the film version of ‘The Road’ promised to be a vivid reflection of the book with its bleak, grey and stormy film poster. The truth is however, that this poster is probably the very best aspect of the film. For me, a major let-down.
I will not deny that the scenery and cinematography were well produced to mirror the bleak and frightening atmosphere of the book; the professionals behind these aspects of the film did a stellar job of setting a post-apocalyptic scene. However, that’s where the positive attributes ended for me.
The acting, the casting, the tension, the structure and the general focus of the film were all disappointing and by no means did the book the justice it deserves. McCarthy’s best-seller focuses predominantly on the relationship between man and boy, father and son; the brutality, fragility and strength of unconditional love and the measures one takes to protect and guide the beholder of one’s heart. For me, the book’s naked and poignant illustration of this very theme was the key to its success. The makers of the film however, didn’t quite seem to understand where the focus ought to be. John Hillcoat’s interpretation was a messy mixture of father and son, husband and wife, then and now and thereby distracted from the powerful journey of man and boy.
The acting was also, in my opinion, sub-par. Kodi Smit-McPhee, as a thirteen year-old, can obviously not be expected to deliver an Oscar-worthy performance, but that said, I was still not impressed. Nor was I pleased by Viggo Mortensen’s portrayal of the father. The two together did not at all create a sense of family love with many of the moving lines that I remembered from the book delivered in such a way as to hardly convey their intended poignancy and weight, leaving me almost entirely unaffected. The only time throughout the film that I felt myself provoked was upon seeing a couple of the more disturbing images that, it must be said, had nothing to do with the acting or the relationships.
In retrospect, I wouldn’t label the film as ‘terrible’ or ‘disastrous’ and can acknowledge that others may have greatly differing opinions of it to me, but I cannot at all say that I enjoyed it. Though the basic storyline remained relatively true to the book, the essence of McCarthy’s message was lost and in my opinion, that is a tragedy. The book version of ‘The Road’ is a magnificent and thought-provoking read, one that I recommend to everyone. The film however, is not.
Let me know what you think of the book, the film and how you would compare the two!