At TIFF: The Road

Movieline Score: 4

Had I gone through life never having seen a movie in which a dad and his son wrap themselves up in filthy Timberland outerwear and wander aimlessly around fire-ravaged back country meant to resemble a post-apocalyptic America, occasionally stumbling into entire families swinging by their necks from barn rafters and hungry bands of cannibals who eye the younger of the two as if he were a delicious turkey drumstick, I think I would have been OK. But I have seen that movie, and it's called The Road.

Like last year's The Reader, The Road approaches its best-selling, Oprah Winfrey-approved source material like a sacred text, its director John Hillcoat fashioning a literal-minded and suffocatingly self-serious take on an inherently ridiculous premise. Not that you can really play a movie that begins early on with a father placing the barrel of a gun into his young son's mouth and encourage him to pull the trigger for laughs, mind you, but that doesn't mean that the audience won't laugh anyway.

The plot, as threadbare as the abandoned Pennsylvania amusement parks and farm houses that shelter our multigenerational survivalists throughout their meandering and somewhat pointless journey, is as such: Once upon a time, Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron had a lovely life together. But then something wiped out everything on Earth, except Viggo and Charlize, for some reason. Maybe it spared the attractive. Charlize's water breaks, she gives birth, she takes off to go die in the woods, and so Viggo is left to raise the child alone.

For the next two hours, they scrounge for food, occasionally finding success in the discovery of various beverages from the Coca-Cola family of products. One clear shot of the two chugging down Vitaminwater, labels facing the camera, produced an audible groan from my audience and led me to fantasize about the two being caught and similarly consumed by their pursuers, repackaged as Slim Jim brand People Jerky.

Viggo gives this part his all, to his credit, giving the film whatever heft it has; young Australian newcomer Kodi Smit-McPhee, however, struggles with the part, up to and including the predictably tear-jerking final scenes and what feels like a tacked-on, audience-testing-approved ending. I love a good father/son weepy as much as the next guy, but sorry -- Smit-McPhee is no Ricky Schroder, and The Road is no The Champ.


  • Amrita says:

    Nice try with that throwaway line of faint praise but prepare to be annihilated by the Viggo-faithful.

  • Adam Orth says:

    Wow. What a non-review. I expect more from you Seth.

  • Lee says:

    I'm excited to see this film. I've read the book which is excellent and I am aware that movies very rarely do the books in which they came, justice, but I hope (and from what I have read) this is not the case. From what I have seen (clips and whatnot) it looks great and from what I've read it's even better than I thought (present company excluded of course). Honestly the subject matter is intense and very dark but a very scary possibility. I don't expect this film to get a great reception from the mainstream public given the shallow nature of todays society. I do respect the fact that alot of reputable sources (cough…esquire, vanity fair) have done reviews about this film and had the balls to give it a thumbs up...but I guess something has to separate the talent from the hack eh bud. Keep up the great reviews, your definitely worth your weight in gold to Movieline.
    P.S - A 6.5 rating for Transformers 2…okay…this actually all makes sense now. Trans 2 was a sac of sh!t.

  • Hank says:

    "what feels like a tacked-on, audience-testing-approved ending."
    Guess you didn't read the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, huh?

  • Seth Abramovitch says:

    No, I didn't. Is the scene with the Vitaminwaters in there as well?

  • some guy says:

    Jesus people, he gave the movie a 4/5. He just doesn't like it. Take it easy

  • DougOLis says:

    No, but Coke is

  • Eddie says:

    I hear ya with the product placements Seth, they bug me to but unfortunately it's a real representation of the world we live in, everything being branded to the teets. Personally i would rather see a real product than a can of beer that's cheesily called "BEER". Still not quite sure if it's enough to wreck a movie for me but hey, your the professional, what do i know.

  • another dude says:

    4/10 actually. That is just a generic graphic and it is used on all reviews.

  • Trevor says:

    It's funny the way you review it. See i've seen the film and the way you reviewed it sounds like you've got yourself an agenda...I mean nearly all the reviews have been extremely positive, or at least have light applause, all praising the acting across the board (stand out/memorable turn from Duvall).
    Now I'm no expert, just a fan of film, and this particular film is by no means worth anything less than a 7 on a scale of 1-10.
    i in particular would vote the movie a 9.
    Faithful to the book, but isn't afraid to embrace original moments as well. Top notch film.

  • jack says:

    I agree that Seth should've read the book before being so critical of the story line, but I don't think this is necessarily a "top-notch" film. It failed to capture the isolation and suffering of the book, and changes their experience with other humans a bit. I thought Viggo's performance was good overall, but had some weak moments. The vitamin water placement made me a little upset too. Coke is a classic representation of America in a way, and included in the book. Vitamin water, on the other hand, is such a modern, trendy drink; it definitely took me out of the film for a second. (Was normal bottled water not enough??) I feel that the movie got better towards the end, but still didn't do justice to the book.
    The cinematography and set-design was great though.

  • I also do it like this but haven't gone as far as creating a blogpost about it! good on ya!ss

  • An outstanding share! I've just forwarded this onto a colleague who had been conducting a little research on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast because I stumbled upon it for him... lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to talk about this subject here on your web site.