It’s an approach that, thanks to the trustworthy relationships Isaac establishes with the colourful array of people he brings to the audience’s attention (from those who are unrelenting in their determination to make a better lives for themselves, to those who are, for all intents and purpose, past the point of trying), works in a moving and inspiring manner. As the camera lingers on their battered and bruised faces, these characters detail their lives in such a way that makes it almost impossible to overlook the troubles they’ve faced.
There are, as always, some stories more distressing than others, though Isaac is extremely careful to award the same amount of time to each individual so as not to be biased towards anyone in particular. If there was a central narrative to The Road: A Story of Life and Death then it would rest upon Keelta O’Higgins’ shoulders, an unassuming Irish singer-songwriter looking to carve herself out a successful career as a musician, much like the hundreds of other Irish dreamers before her.
The other stories, which include a former air hostess who establishes a lodge for foreign students and the charming and inspiring adventures of an elderly Jewish refugee named Peggy, stem off from here, with Isaac every now and then returning to Higgins to see how she’s progressing. It’s all kept too short to make a lasting impact though, with the running time contained to a paltry 75 minutes, which is simply unsuitable considering the bountiful stories these people are attempting to tell.
That’s not to say The Road: A Story of Life and Death isn’t a worthwhile documentary, because it is, and it includes some harrowing, touching and eye-opening material, shot carefully by Isaac and boasting an entirely complimentary, if slightly maudlin soundtrack composed by Lance Hogan. It’s more that, from start to finish, it feels too much like a made-for-television special than something audiences members will seek out at their local cinemas. A solid effort nonetheless.