Child of God review (DVD)

The poster and DVD cover for Child Of God both scream: “From the author of No Country For Old Men and The Counsellor.” Probably only one of those is worth mentioning if you are trying to entice people to see a new film from the same writer, but Cormac McCarthy has a real pedigree in writing engaging, gothic, southern/western books that connect with people the world over. It’s easy to see why studios would want to adapt more of his literary work, but this adaptation comes from Hollywood actor James Franco – who has written the screenplay, directed the film and also stars in it.

Child of God tips further over into horror than any of McCarthy’s previous film adaptations. Here we see Lester Ballard (Haze), a violent man at odds with the world man, who is trying to live outside of the social order. Without family or a home and few other ties to bind him, Ballard descends into a state of raw human life, living in a cave while committing crimes and degradation around his locality.

The film entirely rests on the shoulders of Haze. He's the sole focus throughout and often the only person on screen for long periods of time. To prepare for the role, Haze lived in the wilds for a few months – method acting at its finest. However, it paid off as his character (or should that be creature?) is one of the most feral portrayals likely to have been seen on screen. His ravenous hatred towards all grows and grows, feeding his anger to excessive levels and making him commit horrible crimes. With his inability to speak properly as well, he’s a downright dirty, disgusting piece of a man that makes the flesh itchy whenever he is on screen. All other actors are just bit parts in the life of Ballard causing, at least, what he feels is grief and anguish when in fact it’s keeping peace and harmony to the local community.

While it may be interesting to see a man who is more animal than human fend for himself, sadly the main story is just that – the following of a man who is trying to survive. It becomes slightly monotonous after a while, and with no real resolution until the final few moments, it keeps the film from moving up a gear. Instead it stays at the constant level that is initially shocking but soon becomes the normality as the film progresses. It feels like some of the material may have been hard to adapt for the screen as there are several key moments that lack any gravitas, instead passing by without any real emotion.

Child Of God is an interesting choice for Franco to adapt. There are crucial elements of man living off the land without the help of society, but it comes down to how far is too far? Haze’s performance is the best thing on display as the story struggles to progress pass the initial shock of what’s on offer.


Mark Brennan

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