The film is structured into scenes that were very carefully selected to underline the humanism and helpfulness of many of the fellow people that the family encounters. I remember the book being much more depressing and the ending nothing short of scary. The arc of Tom's arriving back to his family was pretty awesome. I've strongly felt that this could also be a post-nuclear war story, with everybody struggling for crumbs of the cake.
The acting is breathtaking by everybody, especially the preacher and the mother character were so convincing that I went back to see some of their scenes again.
Photography is also very intense, a lot of very high contrast imagery, that transformed the landscape into sinister sets when the car was driving through.