Lessons Learned From The Road
"Are we still the good guys?"
Sobering words asked by a young boy to his father in the movie adaption of Cormac McCarthy's novel, The Road. The movie centers around a father and his son, through the chaos of post-apocalyptic earth en route to a warmer climate. Though it isn't revealed what causes earth's decay, there are strong indications throughout the movie of nuclear war. Humankind's violent nature is displayed throughout the film, suggesting a view of man as in essence little more than base evil once freed from the shackles of socially organized moral restraint. For as vegetation dies, people find other means of survival. Often through unspeakable acts.
One ideal that is construed in the film is the ethic of survival which prompts the boy's question to his father. Throughout the story, the father seems to instill in his son a sense of right and wrong; values in which the father brings over from the pre-apocalyptic world, and applies to their conditions (i.e. the father doesn't want the boy to try whiskey). Piously, the son follows his father's ethic of good and evil to the level that when the father must kill a cannibal to save his son's life, the boy is left questioning: "Are we still the good guys?"
What I loved so much about the film was its warning. The warning of The Road is not of a specific outcome arising from a specific course of action which we need to change. The Road is about the human condition, and how humans might behave to each other if the worst does happen, in whatever way. Imagine yourself in this dark, desolate, destructive world that McCarthy has built; would you still be one of the good guys?
The true struggle of this film is not holding on to your life, but holding on to your humanity. When met with an old man on the road, the father and the son fight on how much trust, love, and acceptance must be extended. Same to a man who steals from them. "Are we still the good guys?" asks the boy plaintively after his father has had to resort to violence to protect him. If they are, it is not just because they refuse to sink into cannibalism and thievery, but because of the love they share for each other – father and son are "each the other's world entire", as McCarthy writes in the novel.
For without love there is nothing – just smoke and ash and gunshots echoing in the lonely, freezing darkness. Love is the light; the delicate, stuttering candle that they – and we all – must hold against the all-consuming darkness of death.