I can certainly understand why people didn't like this movie. Its a quiet study of hopelessness and despair in which there is no real reason to keep moving other than to keep moving. Post-Apocalyptic movies such as this usually have a beacon of hope, a promised land or a savior of some kind, a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it is a dim one. Not The Road, a film in which you find yourself thinking a father selfish for not allowing his ten year old son to shoot himself in the head, such is the horror of the world they inhabit.
The plot is simple. A father and son (Viggo Mortensen and Jodi Smit-McPhee) trek across a barren, post apocalyptic wasteland, forever short of food and water and the basic means to survive. And that's it. They do this for two hours, as things progressively worsen and become more miserable. Now I doubt that's the material for too many glowing reviews, and its a film that can't be enjoyed, only appreciated due to its hearty commitment to depressing its viewers. And yet, I thought it was fucking awesome. Maybe that reveals something unpleasant about me, psychiatrically speaking but I don't care. The film I saw was a frighteningly powerful, genuinely affecting father-son love story, free of all the triteness and convience that usually plague this kind of relationship on screen. The actors give great performances for the most part (McPhee has a couple of misfiring moments but land so many more its much easier to forgive) that are really in tune with each other. The film could have revelled in the visuals of the nightmarish world, or equally revelled in the horror of it. But by primarily focusing on these two characters, the other aspects of the story segue in so much better, the violence and acts of atrocity more affecting, because the film is so humanly real. Special mention to Charlize Theron, who in her cameo as the boy's (as he is known) mother, really sells her character's defeat through and through. But this is Mortensen and McPhee's film, and this is large part to how impressively underplayed the direction is by the brilliant John Hillcoat, who gave us the similarly great The Proposition. Its not without its occassional difficulties, a superflous voice-over and at times forced flashback structure do detract a little, but as a study of human despair, and the need to survive even if you don't really know why, its very impressive.
I'll admit I'm probably slightly biased. I loved the original novel by Cormac McCarthy, and have a favorance for post-apocalyptic fiction in general, but this is a very strong entry into a sub-genre I have plenty enough fondness for as it is, so you know I'm going to love it more then most. But if you don't love it, I get it and really don't hold it against you.