Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Film Review: Child of God (2013)

Child of God (Review)
United States/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"Scott Haze's stellar performance and the handful of compelling scenes can't remedy the glaring issues within the narrative and direction."

After losing his father and, in turn, his property, Lester Ballard (Scott Haze) descends into madness...

Child of God follows Lester Ballard. Ballard is a troubled man with violent and deviant tendencies. After losing everything, Ballard moves into a vacant home in the forest. He runs into some trouble with the law, then eventually falls in love with a corpse. Upon losing more of his possessions, Ballard delves deeper into his madness and deeper into the forest. That's about as far as I can go without spoiling anything else — and that's more than two-thirds of the movie. It leads to a very bloody and shocking climax. The ending, however, drags its feet and feels far too long.

Child of God is mostly hindered by one significant issue — showing too much and doing too little. This is a film that focuses on Ballard to a fault. You'll watch him walk around and mumble, hunt, walk around and mumble, fight, walk around and mumble, play carnival games, and so on. Some of these scenes are effective in crafting Ballard's troubled characters. Most of these scenes are absolutely unnecessary. In turn, you get an unnecessarily slow-paced film with a sloppy balance. It's fine to have a film all about a single character, but there has to be some plot — some trajectory to it all. This film slowly crafts this character — sometimes expertly, sometimes poorly — until the end where it finally explodes; and, even that feels a bit unwarranted.

So, one severe problem snowballs into several glaring issues. It's not all bad, though. At times, the film shines as a very compelling and disturbing character study. There are a few scenes that masterfully capture Ballard's troubled characters. Those same scenes leave an unforgettable impression. Although a large bulk of the film is dull and unnecessary, there are those few moments where Child of God really grips and tears at the audience — those few moments that are actually engaging and necessary. It is unfortunate that these moments are far and few in-between. With some extra fine-tuning, this could have been a deeply provocative film.

Enough about what could've been, though. Scott Haze delivers a superb performance as the leading man. He embodies this disturbed character with a very powerful and compelling performance — a saving grace for the film. The supporting cast isn't half-bad, either. The film is shot well enough. Some of the music stood out, most of it was forgettable. The film's constant cuts and fades made the narrative feel more disjointed than it really is. Director and co-writer James Franco pulls a superb performance from Haze and crafts some haunting scenes, but, as a whole, fails to deliver a compelling and effective film. It's too focused on showing minor details and filling the runtime than it is on crafting a plot and character.

Overall, Child of God is a mediocre film. Scott Haze's stellar performance and the handful of compelling scenes can't remedy the glaring issues within the narrative and direction. It has its fair share of splendid moments, but a significant portion of the film is desolate and unnecessary. I'd only recommend it if you can handle a very slow pace (not a slow-burn, which I love) and if you'd like to see some of it's more shocking moments. Otherwise, you won't lose any sleep if you miss it — actually, it might help you sleep if you catch it.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, nudity and sex, including necrophilia.

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