Set in an always present post-apocalyptic event, humanity is scrambling to survive. Although the specifics of the disaster aren’t discussed, it’s appears that nuclear winter has covered the land. The film uses a monotone colour palette to lull your senses to sleep and ash seems to cover the land. The drabness serves as a great counterpoint to the burst of activity, usually a frightening encounter with less moral survivors than our protagonists.
Viggo Mortensen turns in a great performance as ‘Man’ (none of the characters have names) but I must admit that I want him to stretch a little more. A History of Violence, Eastern Promises and The Road all seem to have Mortensen playing a character that is solitary even when with surrounded by others — separate but with a quiet reservoir of strength. I have Appaloosa sitting on my DVD shelf that I still haven’t gotten around to watching and I’m assuming that it’ll be a similar role.
Complaints aside, Mortensen does an effective job of conveying the constant weariness, fear and hunger that a parent would struggle through in just such an environment. Leading his young son south to some hoped for refuge and land more hospitable then their former home, Mortensen struggles between trying to retain his humanity and teaching his son how to survive by constantly moving and being hyper-cautious of strangers. Memories of his wife, played by Charlize Theron, tear at Mortensen.
As Man and Boy travel the land attempting to avoid contact with those who have turned to cannibalism, Man replays the days before the disaster with Woman in his head. Slowly we are shown glimpses and pieces of their lives as Boy is born into a world falling apart and no good prospects or hope for the future. We learn of the arguments and desperate pleas when Woman decides to leave the family.
The movie attempts to document the hard choices that everyone must face in order to survive. There is no judgment offered or overtly moral tale, just an effort to frame the reality of these characters. It’s certainly not a light or easy viewing but well worth the toll.