ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Road: Carrying the Fire

Updated on December 26, 2017
The Man and the Boy (Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee) © Dimension/Weinstein
The Man and the Boy (Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee) © Dimension/Weinstein

"There's not many good guys left, that's all. We have to watch out for the bad guys. We have to just... keep carrying the fire."

(This review might include some spoilers about the plot)

It is dark. A cataclysm occurs. Chaos erupts... civilization collapses... hunger ensues. That is the tragic world presented in John Hillcoat's 2009 adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel. The world where a man (Viggo Mortensen) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) have to survive in, only with the hope of finding something else down the road.

The film makes the wise decision of not showing nor explaining the catastrophic event that left the world in shambles. Instead, it focuses on the emotional toll that such event has taken on the characters. And to be honest, we've seen the US being destroyed so many times by nukes, asteroids, aliens, and big lizards, that a different focus seemed like a novel approach to me.

The Man (Viggo Mortensen) and his wife (Charlize Theron) © Dimension/Weinstein
The Man (Viggo Mortensen) and his wife (Charlize Theron) © Dimension/Weinstein

The two main characters, which remain unnamed, are a father (Mortensen) and his young son (Smit-McPhee). The film presents both characters constantly on the road, traveling south to flee the upcoming winter. As they wander around, flashbacks give us more insight into their past. We find out that the man's wife (Charlize Theron) gave birth to the boy some time after the cataclysm, but as time went on, she slowly lost hope and the will to live, eventually wandering away to die. But not before prompting her husband to take their son and head south.

Through their journey, father and son have to deal with hunger and cold, but more troubling, the threat of dangerous gangs, which have resorted to cannibalism to survive. Because of this, the father lives in constant fear with an ever-present sense of protection of his son, the only thing he has left in this world. In addition, to help keep his son's spirits alive, he tells him "stories of courage and justice, difficult as they are to remember", and instills in his son a sense of hope and purpose telling him they're the "good guys" and the ones that carry "the fire".

The Man (Viggo Mortensen) © Dimension/Weinstein
The Man (Viggo Mortensen) © Dimension/Weinstein

The Road relies less on dialogue and more on visuals, which tell us all we need to know. Be it the striking images of the desolate wasteland that the Earth has turned into, or just the sadness and desperation in the man's eyes, perhaps questioning himself "is it really worth it to survive in this world?". But the love for his son is enough to keep him focused on the task at hand. The man is in constant movement, always on the road, set to reach someplace, any place, in the end. Even when they find a perfect place to stay, an underground shelter full of food, the smallest of sounds ignites his paranoia forcing them to leave after just one day.

The son, on the other hand, doesn't understand why they have to leave and is reluctant to do so. He craves some stability, some contact with someone or something. Born into this dark world, he cherishes the few moments he has for such contact: he seeks what he thinks is a kid that's following him, he welcomes and embraces an old man (Robert Duvall) they find on the road, and he challenges his father to help a thief (Michael K. Williams) that had taken their possessions. He is truly one of the "good guys", whereas his father is somewhere in between.

© Dimension/Weinstein
© Dimension/Weinstein

Another interesting aspect is the symbolism of the "fire", which has typically been a symbol of life and progress. "Carrying the fire" might mean that the man and his son are symbols of progress, a new birth of civilization, the will to keep on going forward despite the horrors around them. This symbolism is also present in the final scene of another Cormac McCarthy adaptation: No Country for Old Men. In it, old and weary Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) remembers a dream where his father rides past him "carryin' fire in a horn". Like with The Road, the fire symbolizes the desire to keep going forward despite the crime around society. Since Sheriff Bell had given up on his job, and hence on life and the world, the father rides past him, as if he was unworthy of "carrying the fire". On The Road, the boy sees himself as the bearer of that fire, and as such he tries to make a difference to the few people around them. Be it the old man, the thief, or the family in the end. As for the ending, although some might see it as slightly incongruent in tone with the rest of the film, I think there's a slight ambiguity to it. And if that's the case, then the film is even much more grim and dark than it seems.

Overall, The Road is a bleak and depressing film. The kind that makes you feel a burden on your shoulders. But that's rather a testament to how well it is made, than a jab at it. All the performances are great, particularly Mortensen and Smit-McPhee. Plus, the direction is strikingly beautiful in its darkness. The wide shots of the destruction are both haunting and impressive, without sensationalizing the tragedy (There's no shot of the Statue of Liberty in ruins or the decaying White House here). Two days after seeing it, the film has really stayed with me, and the more I think about it, the more I like it. I had given it an A- at first, but I knew it had potential to burn brighter inside of me. I think it's probably a solid A now.

The Road Official Trailer


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Thief12 profile imageAUTHOR

      Carlo Giovannetti 

      6 years ago from Puerto Rico

      Weldon, I don't think it was silly. I just felt that there might be more to it than most people might see.

      Thanks for the comments!

    • Weldon Jewellers profile image

      Weldon Jewellers 

      7 years ago from Ireland

      good review, i loved the film. it was absolutely desolate, but deep within was hope and light. i agree (at least i think that's what you're saying!!) that the ending was a teeny bit silly... :)

    • IslandBites profile image


      7 years ago from Puerto Rico

      Great movie! Excellent review.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)