Child of God Blu-ray Review
“His name was Lester Ballard, a child of God, much like yourself perhaps.”
Ballard (Scott Haze, 2007’s PREY 4 ME) lurks. He watches an auctioneer at a crowd of folks at a property auction. Before a price can be settled, Ballard storms the lot holding a firearm, claiming it is his land. Any wrong word could make Ballard pull the trigger. But he is outsmarted and outpowered and finds himself being bludgeoned.
Narration reveals his father killed himself and his mother took off. Now he wanders the woods and makes it through the day how he can: mumbling to himself, wielding his gun and tackling chickens so they will be his friends. Other hours find him shooting at cows, tearing clothes off of a distressed woman and masturbating outside of cars while a couple has a go inside. It’s wished that he would kill himself so others, particularly Sheriff Fate (Tim Blake Nelson, who played Richard Schell in Steven Spielberg’s LINCOLN), wouldn’t have to see and be bothered by him.
Here is a man who—what, exactly? His past is touched on, but not all that much is revealed. And so he’s just a crooked-necked, unremorseful (he calls the woman he abused a “whore” to her face in front of the police) who is so demented that the audience quickly wishes he would leave Sevier County, Tennessee, and leave the otherwise decent citizens to their lives. But he stays. Perhaps the point of his existence and refusal to go away is to frighten viewers by suggestions of how similar he is to us (hence the line about being a child of God, like ourselves). Perhaps we are supposed to simply acknowledge that such humans exist and always will.
James Franco, who directed, co-wrote the screenplay and gave himself a supporting role, doesn’t make much clear in CHILD OF GOD. And really, there doesn’t seem to be a point to any of it. CHILD OF GOD, adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s 1973 novel of the same name, does not. (CHILD OF GOD is the latest McCarthy adaptation, following the Coen Bros.’ 2007 Best Picture winner NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and John Hillcoat’s bleak THE ROAD from 2009.) It is little more than a series of repulsive acts committed by a disturbed individual who is not compelling or interesting and garners no sympathy from the audience.
While the character is often a challenge to watch, Haze is not. Haze, who was also directed by his friend Franco in the William Faulkner adaptation AS I LAY DYING (2013) and the biopic BUKOWSKI (2014), gives a peculiar performance that could come off as a caricature to some. But Haze doesn’t treat it that way; this is a bold turn that won’t land him on the People’s Choice Awards stage, but does make him an actor to be aware of.
CHILD OF GOD competed for the Golden Lion at the 70th Venice International Film Festival and was an official selection at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.
Video: 1.77:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. This high-definition transfer of CHILD OF GOD is a strong one that presents the movie’s tones, colors and textures with accuracy and shows details in clothing, facial features and the scenery without any noticeable flaws.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Subtitles in English. The audio transfer is an atmospheric one that gives an authentic feel to the Tennessee setting.