How does one rate a film that’s terrifically produced, well shot and directed, with great acting, yet it all seems somehow… hollow? The Road, based on the celebrated novel by Cormack McCarthy, is a cerebral, haunting tale of post-apocalyptic misery. However, through no explicit fault of the film, it all seems so straight forward, so clear which direction the path is going to take, that the Road leaves one unfulfilled.

Viggo once again pulls out all the stops, and he seems genuinely close to death through much of the film. The horror of the world is shown in bitter detail, but there are a number of distractions from the visual medium of film that, I fear, may detract from the work. Where in a book one can simply describe a starving, emaciated child, there’s great difficulty in suspending disbelief in the film, in not being distracted by those things that indicate over and over again that the world shot isn’t in fact dead.

It’s a compelling enough premise that one’s left looking for ways of surviving, from the leaves littering the ground to burning tires for fuel. Yet, of course, this simply should be accepted as a limitation of the visual information the film portrays.

In the end, however, these distractions make the whole affair less awful, less heart wrenching than the book no doubt must be. As it plays, there’s just such a plodding trudge of the story, where everything expected of such a tale unfolds in like some pulp procedural drama.

I’m comparing directly to the last McCarthy book to be filmed, the sublime “No Country…”, where, frankly, I was never sure what was to happen, who was to live or die. Not so for “The Road”, locked to its narrative path, telegraphic the ending early on, removing all sense of suspense at the detriment to the tale. While all the elements should be there for a fine film, it simply does not come together in the end.