Movie Review: The Road

Scott Smith —  December 28, 2011 — 2 Comments

There are bleak movies, and then there is The Road.

Let me start by saying that I enjoy dark movies. I would much prefer a view of the world that shows it for the painful, brutal place that it often is than a view that suggests that the guy always gets the girl and the good guy always wins. The Road is such a movie.  IMDB’s terse summary describes The Road as a “post-apocalyptic tale of a man and his son trying to survive by any means possible.” This is brief, but accurate. The movie consists primarily of footage of man and son seeking refuge from a dying world, interspersed with flashbacks to a time before the end.

While this is not a Christian movie (in fact, there are passing references that God must not exist or must not care), several themes in the movie betray the truth.

  • Good and evil
    In a world such as the movie depicts, why is there any reference to good or evil? What meaning do terms of morality have anyway? The notions of good and evil are either subjective or they are objective. On atheism, we have two choices: either morality is subjective and therefore dependent upon the observer, or objective meaning it somehow arose with us through evolution to maintain society. If subjective, then terms like good and bad are little more than preferences. What I call good, another might call bad. Likewise, the phrase “bad guys” come to refer to people who I disagree with and nothing more. On the other hand, if morality is objective, then in the road we no longer have need for it. If morality arose to further society, once society is gone it becomes obsolete and meaningless. In fact, what is to say that the apocalypse was not a stage in evolution? Perhaps the creatures who arise from us will have a different morality than ours – one that suits their flourishing. Either way, any sense of morality is meaningless without God. The fact that the man and the boy speak in terms of “good guys” and “bad guys” (and that we the audience know exactly what they mean) betrays the fact that there is a truly objective standard beyond us.


  • “The fire inside”
    The man speaks to the boy about the fire inside – something that drives him. What is this fire? If we evolved via undirected processes, this fire is nothing more than a feeling evoked by a chemical reaction in our bodies. Why ought we follow this urge? On what grounds is obeying it a noble thing? For that matter, what possible reason is there for the boy to honor his father rather than eat him? The very fact that we identify with something inside of us – that we even believes transcends us – speaks of the existence and influence of God.


  • Beauty
    The landscape is barren. Animals and plants are a distant memory. The ocean is no longer blue. Everything is grey. But why is this a bad thing? What purpose does beauty serve anyway? Atheists can certainly appreciate beauty, but on evolution there is no basis to expect it or explain it. Beauty is a transcendent expression of God that we can appreciate and emulate, but naturalism has no explanation for its existence. The recognition of beauty indicates a nod of approval to the creator, whether you acknowledge him or not.


  • Immortality
    This one needs little explanation. There is a running theme of being together or seeing each other death. If there is no God, this is an indication of insanity. These people should be pitied for such a belief. Why do we identify with these desires if this life is all their is?


  • Inherent value of life
    This is a major theme throughout the movie.The man is horrified and crushed that his wife would choose to kill herself. On atheism, her choice is pragmatic and wise. But what viewer can see this as praiseworthy?! She claims to be doing this to spare them, but in fact she is choosing to contribute to the ruin of her husband and son.The man’s sole motivation for everything he does is to save his son. He places preservation of the boy’s life above all else. Evolution alone cannot explain altruism. In a world governed by chaos with no one to answer to, self-preservation is the only response that makes any sense.The boy sees the value of life even more clearly than his father does. He is devastated to see his dad belittle and harm the thief who stole everything they owned. He wants to take in every person they run across. He shows compassion for all, choosing to give away their limited supplies whenever he can.The examples go on. My question is why? What possible reason could there be for choosing to save the lives of others – especially our enemies? If there is no God, putting yourself at risk and showing preference to others seems a foolish thing to do.


There are probably other themes that I have not mentioned. Certainly, the problem of pain is always a troubling question. Why would God allow the world to end? Why would God allow children to be born into such a dreary state of affairs? Why does God not provide for the survivors? These are not questions without answers, but I’ll let them be for now.

If you have watched this movie, do you agree or disagree?
What other themes did you see?


Scott Smith

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Scott Smith is a lifelong Christian and an active member of his church. He enjoys blogging and teaching on Christian theology and defense as well as engaging skeptics in debate regarding Christian truth claims. Scott is a co-founder of Etcetera as well as TC Apologetics, and in his spare time he runs his own 3D design company.
  • Alxvazx

    On “Good and Evil”: Being alive would be a good thing. Being dead would be bad. If there was a heaven, let’s all jump to our deaths, it surely is better than this apocalyptic scenario. If there is someone trying to harm us, to take away our lives, we can consider that a bad thing, no need for a God to tell us so. I would rather be alive. Taking life from another one I would define as bad, it’s not what I would like for myself.  The mother chose death over a life of sure suffering. Sure, there isn’t a society anymore, but there’s humans. They retain their morality from a different era. The boy shows it even if he was never part of that era. It just part of being human, no reason to give credit to God on this.

    “The Fire Inside”: The cannibalistic argument is very weird… but these chemical reactions need nobility attached to them? Striving for survival is the very essence of evolution. That “fire inside” makes them keep going, we can use it or ignore it but it surely doesn’t force us to do anything. Transcendence can mean remain in the memories of the living also.

    “Beauty”: Could it be that this beauty we appreciate is only what we know that serves well for our purposes? Something like appreciating nice hips on a woman, labeling her beautiful when all our brains are really looking for are child-bearing hips? Of course we can appreciate a nice blue sky and clean water, we use it. But there’s beauty in the barren landscape of Mars, the volcanic surface of the moons of Jupiter, the nuclear activity in the Sun. We recognize beauty everywhere, but we appreciate what serves us well. Again, no need for gods or for calling it a design.

    “Immortality”: No clue what you meant with this. Are we not a sociable species? In time of need, we can rationalize that being alone does not add to our chances for survival.

    “Inherent Value of Life”: How did she contribute to their demise by offing herself? She’s out of the way, she had given up on life and would’ve been a burden. How is carrying her along against her will helpful? Altruism seems hardwired into our brains, and we are not the only species to do this. Would you go on a shooting rampage if you were sure there was no God? Perhaps the kid is unaware of the risks involved in his actions. Yes, foolish, he does it cause we tend to help, as much as you want to claim that survival of the fittest negates compassion, it just works with us, it got us this far.

    • Scott Smith

      Thanks for chiming in Alejandro. One common thread I see is that you are confusing facts with their explanations. For example, I can state that people stop at red lights, but that does not explain why they do so. That they stop is simply a fact. The explanation would have to do with the established laws and the bodies that enforce them. I’ll try and comment briefly on each..

      Good and evil
      You have given a number of examples of what you consider to be good and evil, but you have given me no basis for thinking you are right. *Why* is taking someone’s life bad? *Why* is what you would like for yourself good? You speak of the boy retaining his morality – ok, fine. Where did it come from originally so that he could retain it? Why is morality “just a part of being human”? You see, you are accepting facts with no justification for doing so. I am interested in where it all came from and why we should care.

      The fire inside
      You’re confusing arguments. I’m not arguing that these urges need nobility attached. I’m saying if they are merely chemical urges, why should I follow them? What possible reason could there be for me to be required to obey a chemical impulse? And if “striving for survival is the very essence of evolution” as you say, then what prevented the father from eating his boy, or vice versa? And on that count, why is cannibalism ever wrong? The strong feed on the weak, right?

      So you are telling me that you are motivated by finding the most fertile woman or the most colorful water? I don’t believe you. :)  But explain to me the beauty we see in distant galaxies or under microscopes. What possible evolutionary advantage do these hold?

      If all that exists is the material stuff around us, these people have lost their minds to talk about being together after death. Are they mentally impaired? Influenced by drugs? If not, why do they all lie to each other?

      Inherent value of life
      I didn’t say she contributed to their demise. I’m saying that the death of a parent or spouse is devastating enough, but when it is at their own hand that is a horrendous burden to put on people we claim to love. You seem to be suggesting that killing herself was more noble than sucking it up and carrying on. That’s even more bleak than the movie! Here again you assume too much. You speak of altruism being hardwired into our brains. I agree. But by what or whom? Virtues do not create themselves. Also, I am not suggesting that anyone would go on a shooting rampage if there were no God. What I am saying however, is that *if* there is no God, no justification can be given to call this action wrong.