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OBS BOOK VS. MOVIE: THE ROAD

by Dawn, June 1, 2010

“When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him. Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray than each one that had gone before. Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world. His hand rose and fell softly with each precious breath…He knew only that the child was his warrant. He said: If he is not the word of God God never spoke.”

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The Road is the ultimate survival story, with a father living solely to protect his son after the world has essentially ended and there is little life, hope, or sanity left in the world. After an unspecified disaster destroys all the plant and animal life, along with most of the human population, they must travel south in order to survive the elements. The two travel through the desolate landscape, scavenging food when they can and taking everything worth keeping in an old shopping cart. Their goal is to make it to the coast and follow it south from there, where they hope there are more people and some food left. But they aren’t the only ones on the Road, and the others pose an unimaginable threat.

Besides the actual story of survival, both the book and the movie touch on what it means to survive in a world beyond hope. What keeps someone going in a world like that? Can you struggle to survive day to day and watch horrors take place all around you and still be a good person? The book and the movie touch on these in slightly different ways (because of the various limitations of each mediums) but both get the same message across: just surviving isn’t enough, you need that something more or you lose your humanity.

This is one of the most accurate Book to Movie transitions I’ve seen. I think it helps that the book is just over 200 pages, and the average screenplay is about as long. It’s so good, in fact, that with one exception when two scenes are switched around, you could follow along with the book.

The book takes place in post-apocalyptic America; and the entire movie was shot outside (something pretty rare nowadays) and entirely in the US: Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana. Some shots were made more gray to appear more desolate, but locations were chosen for their severity, to appear as accurately as possible.

I was incredibly impressed by the casting. Charlize Theron plays the mother, and the actor playing The Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) looks just like her; he’s perfect for this part. Viggo Mortensen is excellent (as always), and the movie is studded with famous actors. Viggo Mortensen and author Cormac McCarthy spoke on the phone while Mortensen was preparing for the movie. The two talked about their sons, and after hanging up Mortensen realized he hadn’t asked a single question about the book. But the book is actually dedicated to McCarthy’s son, and was the inspiration for it. Cormac McCarthy and his son were present on set, and their dynamic was clearly influential. Director John Hillcoat said he was shocked to see them having some of the same conversations in the same tone as The Man and The Boy in the book.

Similarities

  • Very true to the book; some foraging for food scenes were cut for time
  • All of the dialogue from the book is in the movie, word for word.
  • The tone was exactly the same as the book: bleak, bitter, and the smallest light of hope that very nearly died.

Differences

  • Two scenes that weren’t in the book were added to the movie, but made up for the few that were cut
  • The most gruesome scene (in my opinion) was cut; but for completely understandable reasons
  • The Man swore and got angry with The Boy much more in the movie; The Boy was also much more argumentative in the movie-to the point of fighting and hitting his father. They were both much more patient with each other in the book, more like equals.

Accuracy Rating: 4.5 out of 5. The patience of The Man in the book was one of my favorite parts, and that was changed enough to bug me in the movie.

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