Child of God Review

Posted 10 years ago by myetvmedia

James Franco’s Child of God is a perplexing example of modern cinema. Void of the traditional conventions that might pigeonhole this film in the horror or thriller genre, Franco interprets this disturbing tale with fresh eyes. The film follows the story of a young man made perverse and aggressive by his tragic youth. We enter the story just as the remains of his human identity in the community is stripped from him.

Brief voice overs by residents of the town fill in the history of his character, giving us insight into the communities perception of him and his family. One particular voice over recounts of horrid sight of Lester’s dead father, his blackened insides and bulging eyes, comparing cutting him down from the noose he used to commit suicide to cutting down meat. Lester’s transformation from man to monster begins with his fathers suicide, the physical transformation of his father’s dead body foreshadowing his own internal transformation. When he is forced to move from his father’s property the remains of his identity are stripped from him, forcing him into physical isolation and complete emotional isolation. From this point forwards, Lester must survive as an animal, violent and alone. We see Lester in his suspended state of youth, desperate for love, acting on feeling with little rational contemplation of the consequences of his actions. His naive survivalism quickly turns to address this emotional disparity. His tragic origin and consequential child like moral development transforms otherwise brutal acts that into moments of desperation, inspiring sympathy rather than disgust in the viewer. Franco captures these moments with simplicity and precision, using vignette like sequences to communicate developments in Lester’s character, permitting a seemingly realistic emotional reception of the plot as it unfolds.

Despite the dark subject matter and disturbing plot, the film avoids the typical conventions of a thriller or horror flick using apt and sublet humour. One can’t help but chuckle as Lester struggles to push the body of his deceased girlfriend up a ladder, eventually resorting to using a rope after failing repeatedly. The film is intended to be a character study, to provide insight into the consequences of isolation and emotional trauma rather than to scare the viewer. As a result, Lester is presented more completely, humour, terror and all. Actor Scott Haze rises to the challenge of this role with a complex performance, never wandering too far in any one dramatic direction, but retaining an intensity that brings an unprecedented realism to the archetypal serial killer.

Child of God premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday, September 8th after a successful European premiere at the 70th Venice international Film Festival. Highly recommended, but not for the faint of heart.

Isabella Romano

Shown at this year’s TIFF13 : Toronto International Film Festival and the 70th Venice Film Festival (La Biennale di Venezia)

Watch James Franco and Scott Haze at the Venice International Film Festival Press Conference here.

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