ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON 12/14/09
OK, we've all heard about The Road at this point. How it's bleak as all hell, yadda yadda. Well, the truth is that it sort of is, and sort of ain't. What it is, is damn good.
I was only moderately interested in the movie to begin with. I haven't read the book, and what I heard pre-release made it sound like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with literary pretentions. Having seen it, I can say that it almost is, and that isn't a bad thing.
I'll avoid serious spoilers, but the essence of the story is that a father and his son are trapped in the worst of all apocolyptic scenarios. The world has gone to hell in an unspecified disaster. Nuclear winter is suggested by events, but it's not at all clear, and doesn't really matter in the end. The world is bleak and cold, and little in the way of flora or fauna has survived. Civilization has collapsed and humanity has been reduced to small pockets of gangs or family units. Cannibalism is a fact of life.
DAD and SON are in the midst of these events. We get MOM in flashbacks, which eventually explain why Mom is not part of the current story, and also why the situation is Bleak-with-a-capital-B.
Dad and son are heading South, which they hope (without any real evidence) will be BETTER(tm) than their current situation. In the meantime they meet various groupings of people who are slightly more cynical in their worldview.
The real thing that's going on here is that the Dad is trying to preserve the ideal of civilization in his son (who, it is hoped, will eventually reach some kind of promised land.) At the same time, he is increasingly confronted by crazy shit, and acts accordingly. His son, however, has internalized his lessons and acts somewhat differently.
The genius of the movie (and it may be from the book, I can't tell) is that the end is delightfully ambiguous. It's almost a litmus test for your faith in humanity.
I can understand people complaining about not having the ending force-fed to them, but I have no sympathy. See this one.