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Road, The


Stars: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, Robert Duvall, Molly Parker

Director: John Hillcoat

Although lovingly made, and impressively put together, with stunningly bleak production design, this may very well be the most depressing film you've ever seen.

With the world destroyed by apocalyptic 'convulsions' of the kind much beloved by science-fiction writers, a man (Mortensen) and his young son (Smit-McPhee) end their years of cowering in their home, after their wife and mother (Theron) has walked out into the grey-yellow mist that passes for atmosphere (rather like Captain Oates in Scott of the Antarctic) and hit the road.

They trudge on through a truly desolate landscape, heading, for some reason, south. Much of what transpires thereafter is graphically unpleasant, involving cannibalism and unthinkable atrocities. They encounter, and briefly help (thanks to the boy) a grizzled old-timer (Duvall) who tells them that 'whoever made humanity will find no humanity here'.

Not surprisingly, given the circumstances, a skeletal Mortensen - a landless and starving Aragorn - hardly behaves with logic. When he and the boy discover an underground foodstore - with whisky, fuel and washing facilities to boot - he moves on as soon as they hear noises overhead; later, coughing his guts up, he decides to run naked through a foaming sea, to investigate (fruitlessly) a ship run aground.

Mortensen and the boy are both good and the uncompromising landscapes are as unbearably chill and grim as the film. Alas, when Mortensen says 'I can't do any more,' you may find yourself nodding in agreement. Gruelling.

David Quinlan

USA 2009. UK Distributor: Icon. Technicolor.
108 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 03 Jan 2010