By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
James Franco’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s third novel is appropriately as raw, primitive and coarse as its feral title character. Franco, who co-wrote the screenplay with Vince Jolivette, never filters or dilutes the sometimes sickening and often disturbing subject matter. This faithfulness to McCarthy’s novel makes the film a most difficult watch, but one that shows Franco’s fearlessness as a filmmaker and his undeniable talent as an artist. It is difficult to imagine people finding enjoyment and entertainment in this film, but that clearly is not Franco’s intention.
The titular Child of God, Lester Ballard (Scott Haze), has been driven off of his family land and forced to live in the woods and caves of Sevier County, Tennessee. Labeled as a societal outcast and pariah, Ballard’s isolation makes him more animalistic and drives him further into madness. The lack of human contact and socialization leads Ballard to commit acts of a highly deplorable nature.
For the most part, Franco’s film is shocking and disturbing, but nevertheless, enthralling. The film does drag somewhat in the final act, which could have been more efficiently edited. However, everything leading up to that point astounds and mystifies. Scott Haze will probably get overlooked (as will probably this film) come award season, but his transcendent performance truly is a revelation in acting. I truly was blown away with his talent and I hope to see him get work in more movies. Again, Franco never pulls any punches, so this film will not appeal to all audiences. Those who can appreciate a well made film, despite the subject matter will be singing praises about Franco and Haze.