Film Reviews 2009

A Remarkable Adaptation of The Road

Source: El Pais

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© Macall Polay/Dimension Films.
I discovered Cormac McCarthy's wonderful writing late. I had not read reviews of his work, did not have recommendations; neither curiosity nor chance had given me the impetus to buy his books. Someone to whom I will be forever grateful remedied my intolerable lapse by giving me Blood Meridian. That novel fascinated me. A writer had emerged with his own voice, as hard as it was hypnotic, a narrator who would go beyond the ordinary to the heights in North American literature of Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Salinger and Bellow, one of the authentic great ones. The Road, McCarthy's latest work published in Spain, chronicles the terrible and moving odyssey of a father and his child trying to survive after a nuclear apocalypse [sic]. Walking toward the south and toward the sea, fleeing an icy atmosphere, they try to elude or protect themselves from human beings who act as predators. To comfort themselves, they remember a better time on Earth, the splendor in the grass that once thrived there. Surrounded by mountains of corpses and of suicides, facing absolute desolation, searching desperately for food and temporary refuge, protected by a pistol that they plan to use to blow their brains out when they can't take the horror of their circumstances any more, they refuse to be contaminated by moral brutishness; they fight against a twilight that seems endless. This plot and the powerful, dry, lyric language used to express it, can leave you knocked-out, contaminating you with its profound emotion.

Director John Hillcoat has dared the complicated challenge of adapting The Road to the screen. In the same way that the Coen brothers modeled their No Country for Old Men, he has worked from a reverential respect for the published text, without authorial pretensions that play with its argument and with its essence, trying to capture the feel of the novel in images and atmosphere. And the result, apart from being faithful, is remarkable. Knowing how to develop the esthetics and the ethics of this somber narrative, he delivers the anguish and suffering of its characters, the determination in spite of fear, the love this father and son who have lost almost everything feel for each other, but who find the strength to continue walking through a hellish universe.

The director is aware that the solidity of this story, inhabited almost exclusively by two characters, depends on the credibility, feeling and chemistry provided by the actors. And both Viggo Mortensen and the child Kodi Smit-McPhee are as truthful as they are moving. Charlize Theron and Robert Duvall in brief appearances also leave their mark. Equally, you have to admire the photography achieved by Javier Aguirresaro. His lighting recreates a decaying world, grayish, perpetually misty, with the color and smell of despair, menace, ruin and death. I haven't heard the reaction of the always secretive Cormac McCarthy to the cinematic treatment his creation has received. For me, it provokes continuing unease and in more than one instance, touches my heart directly.
Last edited: 5 October 2009 08:48:11
© El Pais.