Perhaps too real for it's own good, The Road shows the true, unvarnished underbelly of the human psyche - constantly asking the question "what would you do if?"
Moving at glacial speed through a tortured landscape filmed in dull greys, the film chronicles a man and a boy as they head south and then east, towards the ocean, hoping to find, if not salvation, then a slightly warmer clime in which to further their existence.
While on the road, the man tries to teach the boy about surviving; imparting his values in a world that seemingly cares not. In this particular hell, the world is growing colder and all the flora and fauna have died - leaving precious little to eat. So of course many survivers join roving gangs and pull a Donner Party... again, what would you do if? It's easy to say you would never resort to cannibalism, but if you're starving...I can only imagine the torture of that slow kind of death.
While man and boy edge southward, you are treated to the film's undertone, asking yet another question - if the world is so inhospitable, is life still worth living? In flashbacks you see snippets of the life Man had with his wife, and how she slowly makes her choice. Here yet again, I asked myself what I would do if faced with the collapse of society into barbarism; looking at a future that held no hope for recovery.
There is yet another theme here; that of faith and finding something to either believe in, or give your life purpose. Man decides that it is all important to protect Boy (who is an allegory for what Man perceives to be the goodness left in the world).
But for all this deep thinking and harrowing vistas, the film seemed to only connect on a superficial, theoretical level. As I mentioned, perhaps it was just too real to truly get under my skin... and yet certain scenes keep swirling in my noggin. Man and Boy encounter an old man shuffling along the road. After sizing each other up, Boy insists that they share some of their hoarded food bounty. After supping together, Boy falls asleep and Man asks the oldster (a well disguised Robert Duvall by the way) if he ever wished he would die. Duvall replies "it's foolish to ask for luxuries in times like these". In the morning he staggers off, as if, like a shark, he will die if he doesn't keep moving. Man let's him go, knowing that their precious food supply will last much longer without an extra mouth to feed.
There is another scene in which Man turns cruel towards another man - virtually leaving him to die. Shortly thereafter Boy asks his father "are we still the good guys?" I agree, hard to tell.
Yet another scene that I found telling was when Man and Boy are walking along the burned out ruins of a boardwalk. A sniper with a bow and arrow hits Man in the leg and then continues to shoot at the pair (the reason why is never explained). Man sees a shape in a window and fires a flare gun shell through the window. He then goes to investigate, finding a woman in the room, screaming over the smoking body "you bastard!". Ok, your husband/boyfriend/protector shot at Man and Boy with no provication, and yet Man is a bastard for firing back? Guess she and her man should have thought the situation through a bit better. Were the pair cannibals or just scared that perhaps Man and Boy were?
In the end, there were a couple of incongruities and a slight slip in continuity. Man and Boy find a fully stocked bomb shelter, yet, after hearing something scrabbling around topside, decide that it isn't safe there, and so continue their torturous trek. Not sure I would have done the same.
Later, there is a scene where Boy alternately appears clean faced and dirty faced, a continuity issue that should have been caught.
The film draws to a close with a sense of hope, which is hauntingly furthered while the credits are playing. You hear what appears to be children playing on a lawn (you can hear what seems to be a sprinkler). Whether this is a sign of hope, or a lament of what was lost is left to the viewer.
A very thought provoking film that I wish I could rate higher, but I felt it wallowed in its dismal atmosphere just a bit too much.