Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Road

"The Times" this Saturday named Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" as the book of the decade. I have no problem with that nomination: this is an incredible book, and the plot and setting are utterly compelling.

Not sure what to think about it being made into a film. The trailer is HERE: film opens tomorrow in the USA.

There has been much discussion about the setting, and comparing it to real places, and plotting the route that the father and son take....


PhilR8 said...

Just saw the film, so a few thoughts re: the geographic setting, the path taken, etc:
1. IMDB has a listing of the filming locations for the film ( and most locations are in Pennsylvania. One recognizable PA landmark visible in the film is an abandoned PA Turnpike tunnel, listed in the filming locations list as "Abandoned Turnpike Tunnels, Breezewood, Pennsylvania, USA." Here's an image of the tunnel ( and here's the same tunnel as seen in the movie trailer ( In the movie, as the camera pans around the strip of road approaching the tunnel, a PA license plate is clearly shown on an abandoned car. That's pretty strong evidence that within the context of the story, the characters are actually in PA and may actually be at the Breezewood tunnel (more detail here: and GMaps location here: So, since the duo are heading in both a southerly direction and towards the ocean, it makes sense that their journey began somewhere northwest of PA in general or Breezewood in particular. No establishing shots of the family's pre-disaster house/neighborhood/city are seen in the film, so it's hard to get more specific than that.
(I realize that since the large majority of the film was shot in PA, many shooting locations were obviously used to represent other places encountered over the breadth of the duo's journey, so recognizing an obscure corner of Pennsylvania on screen probably doesn't indicate that the scene actually takes place in PA within the context of the story. )
2. Very soon after the tunnel scene, the duo enters an urban area that is framed with an establishing shot of a city skyline (seen in the trailer here: I do not recognize the bridge or skyline, so I attempted to use online resources like The Skyline Project ( to try to identify the city. I did not come to a satisfactory conclusion, and for all I know, the skyline shot may be a digital illustration and not actually exist.
3. The IMDB filming location list indicates that some of the film was shot on location in Oregon and on/around Mount St. Helens in Washington state. During the film, several shots include a large mountain peak in the background, much larger than what would be found in the Appalachians, or anywhere on the east coast.
4. The father is seen using a folding map several times during the film - the map seems to have become brittle over time, because it is shown not as a single sheet that folds and unfolds, but as a pile of identically sized "cards," the shapes of which can easily be interpreted to be what a map would look like if you cut along every fold line. So the map was used so much that it came apart along the folds. No matter, because the father has numbered these cards to correspond with his chosen route to the coast - so, since 38-40 are shown to be their destination, we can extrapolate that 1 was their point of origin (never shown in film). Map card #40 is shown up close on screen, but in the theater I did not recognize any of the landmarks or placenames. The town and city names seemed too generic to be real; I thought that maybe the map was manufactured for the film and was a complete work of fiction. However, the shape of the shoreline made me think that the map could represent either a fictionalized southeast New Jersey or a fictionalized/real South Carolina. So with that in mind, when I got home I did some snooping on Google Maps and sure enough, I found an area of South Carolina between Charleston and Savannah, GA that not only looked exactly the same, but contained Port Royal, a town I remembered seeing on the map in the film (Google Maps view of area:

GeoBlogs said...

That has to be the most helpful blog comment I've ever seen...
I haven't seen the film yet, so this is particularly helpful and some great geographical research.