I was flicking around the great wide world of the Internet on the 2nd of October, a mere few days ago, and read a statistic that on that very day ten years prior The Road by Cormac McCarthy was first published. Going on to win a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2007, The Road has become a modern classic and a masterpiece of fiction. Ten years on from its release and the novel seems like it’s been around for much longer. Oh, it is also one of my very favourite books.
Cormac McCarthy took his wonderfully dark southern voice as a writer and told a story unlike anything else he’s written. The Road is a post-apocalyptic story set in a world ravaged and burned, destroyed and broken. An unnamed catastrophe has pushed our planet to almost extinction and we spend the pages of the book with a father and his young son as they traverse the landscape together. They look for food and try to avoid groups of cannibals or killers. It is a story of loss and hopelessness but also of loyalty, love and human strength. It manages to be poignant and heartbreaking and borders on lines of horror and adventure with a backdrop of a simplistic bond between a man and his child.
I first read The Road in only a few hours and remember being heavily moved by what I’d experienced. The prose of McCarthy, the pure nature of the tale and way it was woven, as well as the beauty in which it begins and ends is just part of why this book has been acclaimed so highly since its release a decade ago. I have revisited the book since my first time and still find it captivating and brilliant.
In 2009 John Hillcoat directed an adaptation of The Road, with a screenplay penned by Joe Penhall. I was initially concerned about the film and if it would provide the darkness and the truly bleak atmosphere of the novel but once I’d seen it I was pleased to accept that my concerns were unnecessary. Starring Viggo Mortensen as Man and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Boy, the film is visually stunning and haunting and does an incredible job at capturing the imagery of McCarthy’s work. The lack of conversation between Man and Boy in the novel is brought into the film also, which I was happy to see. Mortensen and Smit-McPhee sparingly speak and use their abilities to express themselves without verbal interaction to tell their stories. They bring the love from the book onto the screen and allow us to lose ourselves in the story.
I am a fan of the movie, and while I don’t hold it in the same high regard as the novel, I still place it as one of my favourites. It is, in many ways, a depressive and harrowing story and so the film itself, like the book, isn’t exactly uplifting or hopeful much of the time, but a story should not always provide a feeling of happiness and joy but also of sadness, of heartbreak and awe. I think it is important to be moved by storytelling in various ways. It is as human as anything to experience both negative and positive emotions, and I love that there are authors and filmmakers willing to show the darkness at times.
If you’re yet to read the book or watch the film, I urge you to do so. If you are a fan of the genre or merely looking for a story that is truly as classic of modern times, then look no further.