I saw this film knowing nothing about the novel, or its writer. The story, in a nut shell is about a father and son coping with the horrific aftermath of some nameless calamity that has befallen the world. Almost everyone is dead, and the dead seem to be the lucky ones, as those that survive must compete with each other and in a Darwinian sense; it's dog eat dog, or in this case man eat man.
The film uses voice over and flash back to great effect and it is filmed in an almost sepia monotone. It has the usual deserted supermarkets and in one scene a deserted multiplex cinema, where a can of diet coke is salvaged and relished as a special treat. I thought that was a clever touch and self referential, adding to the idea that this could actually happen.
In essence, the choices left to the survivors are limited, almost no one is to be trusted and some scenes are quite horrific. I have since learned, that some of the truly horrific cannibalism scenes in the book have been toned down. However, there are still one or two gruesome scenes that bring home the fact that that people have been reduced to the level of the commodities they once farmed or produced. One scene in a deserted house has numerous, naked, wretched people locked in a basement, as they are farmed for food.
We don't know the cause of the disaster, we don't know the name of the father but the journey he takes with his son as they try to reach the coast is desperately harrowing. Some of the people they encounter are not the enemy, but the father insists to his son that they must be seen that way. Their only weapon is a gun with two bullets; the control or dominion that these humans still have is the choice to kill themselves, if needs must. The film gives us a sense of the life they had previously. The departure of the boy’s mother, following the Apocalypse, and her inability, or wish to survive in such a world; the scenes of the birth of the baby that she loses and of her departure walking off into the night to certain death are heart rending.
The film is well worth a look. Brilliantly acted, but very bleak and you leave the cinema feeling that you have been on some kind of arduous journey yourself -- so don't go and see it if you want to be uplifted. There were one or two scenes where I thought to myself, there is no way the father would really break open that basement door and walk down those steps. In essence, unlike some films in this genre, this film did seem real; it did feel like something that could happen.
There is a fear, I think, that if society breaks down, those that are already lawless will take over and take control. However, if the naturally just and fair are unshackled by laws preventing them from defending themselves, then the balance is even, as you would kill to protect your kids; it boils down to a question of numbers. In essence then, the child seems to be the vessel that holds the fire, that will maintain a sense of civilisation. Fortunately as it turns out, there are others that can be trusted. There are no happy endings with this one; but it really does make you think.