Last night I saw John Hillcoat’s (The Proposition, Ghost of the Civil Dead) latest film, The Road and like all great art, it has left me feeling different. The story, shifting parts of my very being around to open me up like a can of fish and expose my own vulnerability. And it’s a story that is more important now than ever before… a story that is at its heart about the unbreakable bond of father and son, the struggle of being a man and the importance of carrying the fire.
Forget the term post-apocalyptic that has been used to describe the world of The Road… this is a world that has moved beyond that. It is a world unable to create new dreams, new memories; those left to survive have only their past to nourish them… the fire that burns inside. Scarily, the breakdown of family structure and the bond between father and son in our very own world is as bleak as the landscape Hillcoat realises in The Road and it is this that haunted me most throughout the film.
The fire on screen between Mortensen & Smit-McPhee was unflinching, their sense of hope, never once delusional, despite the savagery of the land and ‘the bad guys’; those who had forsaken their fire and roamed the road in gangs, searching for food, which more often than not was the flesh of other survivors. I feel that same fire; born into a family where our bond is everything… but it is a fire that our society is quickly extinguishing. I see and feel its loss daily in our schoolyards and streets, but as McCarthy’s story shows us, as long as some of us carry the fire, there is always hope.
The Road will challenge, will hurt and haunt, but my own fire is burning brighter for the experience.