I have always believed that a movie should be like a dream, not in any surreal sense, but after viewing you should be left with some sort of emotion that lingers. This lingering emotion, whether positive or negative, is proof that the director has succeeded in the suspension of disbelief.
Another important point for me is that you should feel some attachment for the characters. You are going to be spending at least the next 90-120 minutes with them after all, you should been drawn into their ordeal, caring about what happens to them.
Director John Hillcoat’s The Road delivers on both of the above criteria. Picture a very bleak world, a world where it is perpetually on the edge of winter. An unnamed cataclysm has wiped out most of the earth’s population, both animal and human. There is no food, no electricity, and to make matters worse there are roving bands of cannibals. In the midst of this, a boy and his father embark on a journey to the coast, hoping to find some semblance of civilization there: food, shelter, other like-minded people.
Along the way, they encounter many obstacles. Without getting into specifics, the physical hardships and dangers that manifest in their encounters with other humans are minor compared to the mental struggles they deal with from moment to moment. Suicide is an issue that is always at hand; a revolver with two bullets is their solace, should they need an exit. The pain of letting go is a constant theme that is delivered via flashbacks—what civilization and life was like pre-cataclysm versus what it has become.
Unlike other movies in the disaster-porn genre (and I use that term very loosely here ), The Road does not rely heavily on special effects. Through very careful location selection, Hillcoat was able to find Cormack’s world of decay within our own. Primarily shot in Pennsylvania, there was plenty of scenery to draw on, from various abandoned coal fields to more run-down parts of Pittsburgh itself. That is one of the most startling aspects of the film that makes it all the more believable. These little pockets of trauma exist in our world, we don’t see them, but they are there.
Overall, this movie is about the relationship between a father and son. The Father is teaching his son how to survive but the Boy, in his fresh-faced naivety, is also teaching the father about what it means to be human.