Chew's Reviews - 'Child of God'

By Gary Chew | July 30, 2014 | If Lester Ballard's intelligence were to be measured by his will to survive, then this retard...

By Gary Chew | July 30, 2014 |

If Lester Ballard's intelligence were to be measured by his will to survive, then this retarded and mentally disturbed man would be a genius.

That's how best I can describe this prominent character that was hatched in the unfathomable mind of the award-winning novelist, Cormac McCarthy. His novel, “Child of God,” tells a more than unsettling story of Ballard in rural Tennessee in the 1960s.

An orphan of society, Lester (Scott Haze) is isolated from it and any sense of societal decency that might randomly come from it. He is disconnected … no family, no home, no significant other. This violent, barely coherent soul exists outside the comfortable margins of the civilized. His behavioral level is not much above that of a wild bear in the Appalachian woods.

Playing Jerry, film actor James Franco has taken on the thankless burden of putting McCarthy's story to film. Not to suggest that McCarthy's work shouldn't be brought to the screen, let me just say: “Child of God” seems to be the least likely in McCarthy's oeuvre for a filmmaker. Consistently, violence and outrage play out. Less common anti-social acts are depicted … not down to intimate specificity … but plainly enough in order to make one aware of what they are.

Here's the list: human defecation in the wild; male masturbation stimulated through voyeuristic means while heterosexual intercourse takes place nearby; and most difficult for holding a steady eye to ... necrophilia.

“Shocking” might be the most concise description. Having seen so many movies over the years ... long ago, I stopped turning my head or shutting my eyes when really disturbing scenes appear … until last evening when I saw “Child of God.”

On the other hand, I don't consider the Franco film to be awful, although it has primitive production values, causing one to think that the budget could've only been less than meager, and with only mediocre performances.

If you've read any of Cormac McCarthy's novels, you might have felt drawn in by the dark, simple, primitive kinds of behavior that keep the author's attention. His characters are unadorned, yet face up to what has-to-be-done in order to survive ... like much of the , shall I say(?), civilized population.

A passage in one of McCarthy's books or one that's written for a scene in a movie could easily contain a prehistoric ape tossing a large bone up high into the sky. Moreover, Lester Ballard and Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem in “No Country For Old Men”) have much in common … and so do the rest of us. But we mask it better. I suppose that's the reason Cormac McCarthy writes what he writes.

Copyright © 2014 by Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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