The Road Movie Review: A bumpy ride with p(l)otholes and convenient twists
When the writing pushes you to accept the film’s way of things, it only becomes harder to nod and agree to what is in offer
Be it a fun boys' trip turned adventure (Saroja), or a romantic drama topped with action (Paiyaa), roads have been used as major plot devices by filmmakers across genres and generations. And just like that a road, or in this case a highway lane, becomes a tool for a much larger organised crime chain. Headlined by Trisha, The Road is an investigative thriller meets an emotional drama, where one particular road doesn’t only personify a grim reaper, but also is the central tool for a gang that orchestrates accidents to rob the subsequently dead and injured ones. However, before we are introduced to this dark world, we are made to believe how Trisha’s Meera is living a content and spot-free life with her loving son Kavin and husband Anand (Santhosh Pratap), through just a song. The film chooses lethargic writing over hard work so much that Meera and Anand struggle to tell their 10-year-old son that his birthday road trip isn’t possible because that doesn’t suit the health conditions of expecting Meera. How difficult would it be for two adults to confront their child on noble grounds? But no, just for the film's sake to take a dark plunge, the father-son duo embarks on the trip, just for the grim reaper to hunt them down. The tragedy strikes, and it is Meera who has to probe into their deaths. Now don’t ask me how a woman who lives in a luxurious, well-settled villa, and is not even close to a sleuth profession, handles a gun with ease, forget being a mastermind of breaking a crime syndicate and hiring forensic experts on a washed-down case by the cops.
Director: Arun Vaseegaran
Cast: Trisha, Shabeer Kallarakkal, MS Bhaskar, Vivek Prasanna, and others
The Road isn’t just a substandard mixed bag of many elements together but has a problematic moral compass on pressing issues of today’s times. In the era of social media, where harassment and bullying are common, and labelling communities based on hierarchical preferences is rampant, the film trivialises sexual harassment allegations and notions of residents of indigenous regions as mere plot-pushers. In one instance, a righteous college professor Maya (Shabeer Kallarakkal) is accused of predatory behaviour by student Priya to get back at him for rejecting her love. Now, the problem isn’t just about the romantic score when Priya pursues Maya, much to the latter’s chagrin (the case would definitely not be the same in a gender reversal situation), but also at one instance when Priya isn’t questioned about what she is doing in a library alone with Maya when she is taking a loo break from the exam hall. Even as the director uses this as a trigger point for Maya to spiral down into the drain hole and embrace the darker side, character arcs ask, “Am I a joke to you?” when you almost pity a man who comes all the way from a visibly impoverished hilly terrain to teach students, only for him to turn into a blood-sucking monster with no remorse whatsoever. As I said earlier, the ethical compass of the character is so skewed that years of righteousness turn bitter in a couple of incidents, reflecting the film’s flaws.
The film trades convenient twists for an engrossing thriller. There is no point where you empathise and connect with the lead, who has just lost her family, experienced a miscarriage, and is facing a whole lot of evil men because the film never stops to build these moments organically. A montage song lasting a couple of minutes neither helps you understand why the trio is a close-knit family. On the other hand, The Road tries hard to make you sympathise with its antagonist’s past, that the drastic change in him, stands out like a sore thumb and the fear is never instilled. When the writing pushes you to accept the film’s way of things, it only becomes harder to nod and agree to what is in offer. Even as injustice is served to Maya, and just as when The Road begins to build a connection and piques your curiosity about where it is going, it collapses to nothingness and commodious choices.
Alas, with all that said, The Road is riddled with p(l)otholes, shallow writing and convenient twists that make up for a bumpy ride, reminding you of the trip that once gave you motion sickness.