The Road (2009)

Published: Apr 23, 2010 |Updated: Sep 10, 2023


A gruesome movie about the end of the world, The Road tells the story of one man’s struggle to fend for his young son in a world where most people have gone insane and started eating each other. How do the two of them keep the sacred fires burning even in the bleakest, most agonizing circumstances? The Road takes us deep into the father son relationship at the end of civilization.

Genre Drama
Production year 2009
Director John Hillcoat
Male actors Viggo Mortensen, Guy Pearce, Robert Duvall, Kodi Smit-McPhee

Keeping the fire burning at the end of the Road

This movie review will be the first in a new range of reviews. They will be shorter and focused on inspiring you as opposed to bringing you really deep information. Bite sized information for the guy who’s in a hurry. They will not replace the in-depth reviews entirely, but to get a bigger rotation of reviews here, I will start doing quite a few of these in the days ahead.

Inviting my friends for an evening in hell

Last Friday, I invited a group of men friends to catch this movie just before it was taken off. I knew very little about it, but I had the feeling I should see it. Viggo Mortensen is one of the few actors in Hollywood I really respect, but more importantly, there was an article about it in big Norwegian newspaper some weeks previously. It spoke about how movies frequently portray father figures as heroes and that the same thing doesn’t happen with mothers.

I don’t agree. There are plenty of heroic mothers in the movies, although they may not be kicking ass and taking names to quite the same extent as the father figures. I think heroism for women and men generally looks very different.

I was blown away by the movie. It is an absolutely horrific tale, a tragic story about humanity’s frailty and stupidity. Husband and wife wake up one morning and it’s the end of the world. Nothing is left. Outside of their bedroom window, nuclear holocaust awaits. The wife shrieks with agony as she gives birth to their first-born in the midst of this soul-devouring limbo. She knows all too well that his will be a cruel and terrible life. There is no hope, nothing she can do to comfort her newborn from the inevitable despair that is his destiny.

There is nothing to eat. Cannibals roam the streets scavenging for flesh to satisfy their hunger. One day she can bear it no longer and she walks into the nuclear fog to die. The man begs her not to, but her will to live has dwindled and disappeared. She doesn’t want to just survive, she tells him. Surviving isn’t enough, she needs more. It’s a cruel world that has a mother’s despair outweigh her motherly instincts.

It made me think of women’s innate talent for and need to celebrate life in all its glory. They do this better than men. We are generally caught in a grid of space and time, trying to make things happen while not being very welcoming with distractions or unplanned for circumstances. We are action oriented and we know it. Women are better at enjoying the moment than us guys. They dance the dance of life, and radiate life force through their glowing skin and beaming smiles. That is, of course, if they are connected to their feminine essence.

This movie made me understand that a post-apocalyptic world where all expressions of nature’s feminine vibrancy are gone would be completely hellish for a woman. Women are as a whole much more connected to nature than men and when nature dies, so does parts of women (and even the feminine in us men).  There would be nothing left to support her radiance.

Such a place would be a spiritual wasteland, a place so evil, barren and desolate that the most sensitive women might just shrivel up and die, as is more or less the case here. The husband is left with infinite heart break, ashy tears and the agonizing knowledge that this is the end of the road for humanity. What kind of mission in life can a man adopt to make sense of that scenario?

Keeping the fire burning

The man does what any good man would do: He cares for his son as he takes him towards the South East, hoping better days await them there. The challenges they are faced with are totally gut wrenching. I had tears pouring down my face throughout this movie.

Humanity has gone insane and many are eating each other because there is literally no food left. The father tells his son “we are the good guys. We are the ones who keep the fire burning”. And I’m not sure he even believes in it – everything is so bleak. But the son absorbs that. It helps him keep sane. The alchemical transmission between father and son seems to take place even under the worst conditions. Although he misses his mother terribly.

By the time I got out of the cinema, I felt like I had been for a couple of thousand spins in a tumble drier. I felt beaten up inside. We just stood there looking at each other in silence for a long while. My friend Magne finally spoke: “Words are pointless after that”.

He spoke the truth. For the rest of the weekend, I was really down. Boy do we have work to do to prevent something like that from happening! In small ways, each and every one of us carries the destiny of the world on our shoulders. No pressure or anything, but our actions or lack of them may actually be a deciding factor in the big picture of humanity’s survival. Makes you think twice about wasting your time watching reruns of 24, doesn’t it?

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