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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Road

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

The theological ambiguity underlying "The Road" (Dimension) is highlighted by a scene set in a ruined church.

As the two main characters in this moving but relentlessly grim post-apocalyptic drama take shelter in the abandoned sanctuary, alert viewers will note that, although its artwork is in shreds and its altar has been displaced, a cross-shaped window shines above the wayfarers with a light virtually absent from every other environment they—and we with them—have encountered.

That's about as much hope as this dystopian tale holds out in chronicling the desperate journey through a devastated America of a father, identified only as The Man (a mesmerizing Viggo Mortensen) and his son, called only The Boy (fine newcomer Kodi Smit-McPhee).

Traveling on foot along what's left of the interstate highway system, some years after the unspecified cataclysm that destroyed both the ecology and civilization, the pair encounter marauding cannibals, crafty thieves and a few shell-shocked survivors—most notably The Old Man (Robert Duvall), an aged, nearly blind prophet figure pondering the meaning or unmeaning of it all—on their way to what they hope will be a marginally better life along the coast.

Occupying the pitted no-man's-land between a Samuel Beckett play and "The Road Warrior," director John Hillcoat's adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is a stark examination of one man's efforts to preserve, and pass on, humane values—to "carry the fire," as Joe Penhall's script terms it—a labor in which he is refreshed only by the instinctive goodness of his youthful companion.

Yet, in the excess of his love, the father indulges in a quasi-idolatrous exultation of the boy that, like the borderline-blasphemous sentiments expressed by other characters, would be completely unacceptable in a less extreme context.

The film contains complex moral and theological issues, grisly images, cannibalism and suicide themes, rear and brief partial nudity, a few uses of profanity and occasional rough and crude language. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

******
John Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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