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Vignettes of Feral Insanity
benjkramer30 September 2013
I sat still after the United States premiere of James Franco's "Child of God" at the New York Film Festival, not as much contemplating whether or not it was good as I was considering whether or not I liked it. Mostly true to the Cormac McCarthy novel on which it was based, the film follows the cloistered and violent existence of Lester Ballard (Scott Haze) who lives isolated in the woods of Tennessee committing crimes of the most grotesque caliber. I won't say much more about the plot other than the fact that the sadistic actions shown on screen evoke an uneasy humor, a disturbing essence of comical brutality. To say the least, this movie is not for the queasy or the fainthearted. You will squirm.


James Franco decided to organize the film into three acts, clearly distinguished from one another by title cards. While the producer argued this was done to manifest the passage of time, I felt it had no such effect. To add to this distortion of time and space, scenes are executed as vignettes. There's a constant transition fading in and out of the action, not only prompting confusion as to how much time passes between each scene, but also distracting the audience from the plot by means of excessive filmmaking. Some scenes exist solely for the purpose of character development while others seem to have no function at all. The relevant vignettes are strung together by a consistently distressed brain. While this structure may detract from the linear storyline, it instead leaves more up to interpretation and imagination. No number of scenes can embody the true insanity of Lester Ballard, we can only imagine what madness must be going on between the fades.


Scott Haze's performance as Lester Ballard is probably the most memorable and noteworthy aspect of the film. Haze, who lived alone in caves and lost 45 pounds to prepare for this dynamic and challenging role, brilliantly expresses the complex lunacy of Ballard. He adjusted his voice to a barely comprehensible Tennessee accent and habitually licks his lips and bares his teeth, similar to Heath Ledger's Joker. Admitting that he channeled troubles from his own past when confronting the character, Haze often appears ignorant and childlike, constantly screaming and salivating, a repulsive portrait of a man bore from nature's womb. While sometimes funny, his interactions with his victims are unsettling yet strangely amorous. Just like in the writing of Cormac McCarthy, the audience lacks any sympathy for Ballard, for it's nearly impossible to relate to him. Franco isn't looking for your sympathy, he wants nothing more than your intrigue and attention. To witness Haze is to observe an animal, wild, vicious, and savage. The only other notable performance is that of Tim Blake Nelson playing Sheriff Fate. He conducted the role with a mediated honesty, constructing as realistic a character as possible and standing out within the frame, even with minimal screen time.


All things considered, the technical aspects of the film are quite impressive. Funded out of James Franco's own pocket, the movie looks and sounds great considering its modest budget. The cinematography of the rural Tennessee landscape is eerily beautiful, shot hand-held on a handful of Canon 5Ds. The desaturated and gritty colors add an appropriate rustic feel to the film, further enhancing the forest terrain. The original music, although not particularly memorable, suits the setting well. Furthermore, the nameless narration was true to McCarthy's technique and certainly added to the tone of the film, keeping the audience attentive all the same. Overall, the movie's unsensational filmmaking is entirely fitting, ensuring the horrors on screen are ever more explicit, ever more real.


You can tame the land, but you can't tame a man. "Child of God" is a commentary about the dispossessed in an incestuous homeland. Littered with existential imagery and dialogue, the film offers a respectful and honest rendering of the novel. While I may not agree with some storytelling elements and approaches, Franco still manages to get the point across and deliver a message, a testament to rejection, violence, and humanity. The film is definitely worth a watch if you can stomach it and works as a cogent visual supplement to the novel. I look forward to seeing more James Franco adaptations in the future.
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A by-the-numbers take on a brilliant novel.
When word broke out that James Franco, wannabe wunderkind who has taken to adapting classic American literature to the big screen to, well, mixed results, would be adapting my favorite author's work, I prickled with righteous indignation. I don't care much for Franco and indeed find him to be a jack of all trades but indeed master of none: he is a subpar actor, his writing leaves a LOT to be desired, and his direction feels a little too over-reliant on flashy tics that add an unnecessary layer of pretension to the proceedings. And here he is, adapting the work of the master: Cormac McCarthy.

At first, Franco announced he would be tackling McCarthy's masterpiece, the ultraviolent scalp- hunter saga "Blood Meridian", but after a while, he decided to cut his teeth on a smaller -- but by no means lesser -- work of ol' Cormac's. And this is how he came to deliver "Child of God" onto the masses.

Despite its brevity, "Child of God" is by no means an accessible novel: it's lean, mean and has a soul blacker than night. The novel is just like its protagonist, Lester Ballard, a loner who skulks about the Tennessee backwoods like a dog suffering the early onset of rabies, indulging in varying degrees of vicious activities, from assault to necrophilia to, eventually, murder. Ballard is not your typical protagonist, and yet the way Cormac McCarthy approached him, he was made both revolting and at the same time strangely empathetic, as he managed to submerge the reader into Ballard's festering brain. "A child of God much like yourself" is how McCarthy's opening lines describe Ballard, signifying that the madness and malice that ferments within the man is a seed to be found in any of us. And despite its grim premise, "Child of God" is astoundingly, gut-bustingly funny, like the worst sort of dead-baby joke.

Unfortunately, I feel that Franco has missed the levity, instead emphasizing the straight serial- killer premise. This isn't to say that Franco doesn't hew close to the novel; if anything, he is a little too faithful, even relying on having blocks of text from the novel playing out on the screen. It's an admirable slice of avant-garde, even if I feel that Franco is forgetting the first rule of filmmaking: show, don't tell. Even though McCarthy's prose is magic, Franco should've known (as the Coen Brothers and John Hillcoat knew before him) that McCarthy's words can be translated visually to bring the same harrowing, to-the-bone effect.

That said, Franco does show a great deal of passion for the material. But even beyond the use of McCarthy's words, the most crucial aspect of an adaptation of "Child of God" is the man who will be playing Lester Ballard. And in this film, Ballard is played not by Franco, but by his buddy and frequent collaborator Scott Haze. Whether or not you approve of Haze's performance, you can't say he doesn't go for broke in his portrayal of Ballard. Haze's Ballard is beyond laconic; he speaks in strangled, guttural inarticulations that sound almost caveman-like. I do think that there are times that he lays it on a bit too thick, and I think his drooling, leering presence lacks any of the bizarre charm that made Ballard such a fascinatingly funny character in the book. Haze plays Ballard like a "Deliverance" refugee, and while it isn't bad work on its own, I do feel that Haze is a bit too superficial in his take on one of McCarthy's greatest creations. He makes up for it in intensity, though, gotta give him that.

It also doesn't help that Franco's film has a cheap aesthetic to it, lacking any of the grim Gothic atmosphere of the book. It's my biggest issue with Franco as a director: he has no real concept of effective mise-en-scene, instead opting to point the camera and let things play, cutting an odd times that feel far too arrhythmic to be deliberate. Much like last year's interesting-but- too-shallow "As I Lay Dying", Franco gets the story right but tells it in the most simple, A-to-B- to-C way possible. It's worth the watch for Haze's performance (and also for Tim Blake Nelson, who feels like he should've featured in any and every Cormac McCarthy film before this), but it only serves to prove that we're lucky that we dodged a "Blood Meridian" adaptation by James Franco.
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disturbed performance
SnoopyStyle4 December 2014
Lester Ballard (Scott Haze) is a disturbed man living in the rural mountains of Tennessee in the 60s. His father killed himself and his mother ran away. His father's property is auctioned off and he becomes a recluse. He gets in trouble with Sheriff Fate (Tim Blake Nelson) after he struggled with a drunken woman. He steals and is a general nuisance. He runs across a young couple dead in their car. He has sex with the dead girl and steals her body away.

I think this is the only movie where a character is actually taking a dump. I've got to say that it's disturbing and gross. It sets the tone for the whole movie. Scott Haze is terrific in his performance. The main problem is that the movie is uninvolving. After awhile, Lester's insanity feels repetitive and lifeless. His isolation infiltrates into the movie. This movie needs more time for Sheriff Fate. I also wonder why the sheriff can't put him away longer and how bad the dead body smells. These are the little things that nag at me when the movie stops being compelling. James Franco's directions are workable but they need to energize the plot more.
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Skip it.
indianajones7919 November 2014
Warning: Spoilers
As a big fan of McCarthy's "The Road," (both the book AND the film), I was excited to see the trailer for "Child OF God," a film based on another of his works, which, admittedly, I had not read. I put the film on and proceeded to be disappointed.

A severely disturbed hillbilly with a traumatic past is ejected from his home, after which he wanders around Tennessee, clutching his beloved rifle (and assorted stuffed toys). Mumbling incoherently, talking incoherently and shrieking incoherently, he goes from squatting in isolated cabins and raping corpses, to living in caves and killing a young woman so as to continue raping corpses.

Finally, he is caught during a botched murder attempt, but is able to escape when a lynch mob sneaks him out of custody in an attempt to take the law into their own hands.

Scott Haze's portrayal of the deranged Lester Ballard is truly excellent. However, the bleak and depressing tone of the film was overshadowed by a pervasive sense of boredom, leaving me practically without feeling. By the 80-minute mark, I was just waiting for the movie to end. Which it did: at 96 minutes it just sort of peters out and comes to a dead end.
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farron3410 August 2014
Based in the novel of the same name written by Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men, The Road). This is very dark film and certainly not for everyone, but I would recommend it to cinephiles based on the incredible, visceral performance by Haze. He is Lester Ballard. As despicable and vile as his behavior is, there is buried within him a human quality. He just wants what all humans desire – to be accepted and loved.

The film sticks very closely to the book, with only 2 scenes expanded from the original text. It is most definitely one of the most faithful adaptations I've ever seen. The direction is fairly solid, the use of long takes and natural action is apparent, making everything on-screen seem genuine. All of the camera work is hand-held, which can be disorienting at times but it, in a way, adds to the aesthetic of the film. The music used is subtle yet appropriate. Overall, like I said , a very dark film with very strong subject matter, but it's well done.
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Not a film to like
Gordon-115 October 2014
This film is about a woodsman who is violent and lonesome. He is a disturbed individuals disowned and disliked by the village.

The main character is a man who is wildly different from the other villagers. He cannot relate to other people, and lives in a world of his own. Despite him being a child of God, his behavior becomes increasingly erratic and violent. He's not a character to like, and not just because of his horrid behavior but also of his appearance. I guess "Child of God" is a good film because it evokes a reaction in the mind of viewers, and provoke thoughts on how a person can descend to such lowly depths. It's not a film to like, but to admire for its artistic achievements.
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Incredible character
claudebutnaru14 July 2014
All I can say about this movie is WOW. If you're tired about movies like Transformers or, I don't know ...any big budget , with the same story movie, you have to watch this. I am personally a big fan of James Franco, but I had no idea that his mind is so twisted. It takes you inside the mind of a slightly crazy woodsman, who gets deeper and deeper into a bunch of self inflicted chain of events. I love this movie for the reason that there is no right or wrong in the story and also for it's originality.

Scott Haze, the main character, provides probably the most impressive performance I have ever seen, of a guy who's not right in the head, honestly I thought about it, and he beats Rayman by a long shot.

This isn't a horror or a violent movie, it plays with your mind. Watch it and see where you stand, and how you feel about the character and what he does in different scenes. This movie will stick in your mind for a while.
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Haze is brilliant in a near un-filmable adaptation
eddie_baggins19 August 2014
For those who've not yet partaken in the depraved and deranged dealings of Cormac McCarthy's 1973 book Child of God you are in for one almighty shock if you by chance stumble upon this new James Franco directed effort, a tale that is utterly original in all its triumphs and shortcomings and a tale that deals with some seriously tricky business that on page seemed almost too much to ever commit to screen but thanks to an obvious commitment to the text by Franco the film works to a level that marks the event as an oddity not unworthy of seeking out.

Franco who has long held affiliation with a desire to transform McCarthy's more insane and often controversial works to screen here goes for much of the same aesthetic he created in his last directional outing As I Lay Dying, a low budget yet gritty feel that uses it's natural surrounds to good effect and gives off the illusion of a bigger project. Franco harbors a good feel for not only Lester Ballard the creation but also his world, the feel of the lonely mountains and the people that inhabit them is captured to great effect and visions so vividly written in the book are bought to life here in many respects. With the world captured so foreign too many of us, Franco in the form of actor Scott Haze has found someone that against all odds is Lester Ballard and leads the story of insanity forward.

Without spoiling the character for those uninitiated, Lester Ballard is a thoroughly despicable and complex creation, a man who despite clearly not being of sane mind is also a man who knows better than the acts he commits. Haze owns this "child of god" from small mannerisms through to out and out rage, from random lonely road discoveries to questionable hair and makeup, Haze gets Lester right. Haze is the focus point of the picture with only small appearances by Tim Blake Nelson and Franco himself it's clear that this film is built by Haze but there is only so far his performance can carry a picture that in the end is dealing with material mighty hard to not only relate to but to tolerate and it's a commendable feat to the filmmakers that you won't be reaching for the off switch a mere 30 minutes in for make no doubt about it there are mightily tough and mature themes the film deals with.

Child of God is a film you feel will slowly be discovered by an unknowing audience who will react strongly either way in favour or hatred to a tale that provides no reason for things being the way they are. For those who are familiar with the text this is a very strong attempt at turning an almost un-filmable book into a quality film and as it stands is another fine turn by Franco as a director in what is shaping up to be an interesting career behind the camera.

3 conniving stuffed toys out of 5

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Humanizing a demonized man!
SpannersGerm66918 September 2014
I had no idea what to expect with Child of God. I haven't read the book but I have heard its quite disturbing. I had my skepticism because it could have easily been a disturbing movie just for the sake of being disturbing, but I had hope that James Franco would deliver something memorable, and he has!

Lester Ballard is a despicable man. Shouting and abusing anyone in his sights. Filthy, foul mouthed, psychotic, this is a man you wouldn't want to have a conversation with, and I was expecting just to have nothing but repulsive feelings when watching him on screen! But what makes the film work, is that Franco, although not condoning this man's behaviour, allows some humanity inside a person that everyone deemed as a lost cause. There was a strange beauty in this film that hid under all the ugliness.

The acting from Scott Haze is nothing short of amazing. Psychotic one second, to a crying mess the next. You have a whirlwind of emotions when dealing with this very dramatic character.

Be warned, the themes in this film are very extreme and will upset a lot of people, but I thought it had a purpose.

If you don't mind watching films that aren't afraid to show you the ugly side of life together with a strange sense of beauty, then Child of God comes recommended!
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Franco needs to refine his game
joshknechtel7521 May 2015
First off, I am a huge Cormac McCarthy fan, currently reading my 9th of his 10 novels. Child of God isn't one of my favorite novels of McCarthy's but it was still better than 95% of novels released in the last 30 years.

This movie's subject matter and plot are already going to reduce the audience to a small percent of would be viewers. I say plot, but McCarthy's novels are rarely, if ever, plot driven focusing more on the human condition. This novel is no different and thus the movie will have only a mild appeal to those who watch it for the plot.

All that said, the main actor is magnificent. He could not done better given the direction and role he had to play in my opinion and what really made this movie enjoyable for me. The rest just is a side show, at least for me.
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Teeth, far-too Healthy!
AlanMichaelElliott30 August 2014
For all of the money spent on sets, costumes and vintage cars how could the creators overlook the main character's lack of facial realism? The biggest draw to that character's appearance aside from his fake, dim witted, looking up, eye gestures.. are his teeth. Far too healthy looking for such a depraved person living in the backwoods during the early 1950s. There is no explanation given as to how he obtains money to buy ammunition for his rifle or to pay the barker at the carnival's shooting tent for games played. I found this movie nothing but an attention grab based upon some foolish notion, assumed by character over-dramatization with some far-out shock scenes thrown in, would work in capturing the audience's admiration and even that of the Oscar Awards panel. These folks overdid themselves and in such a way only to prove their movie-making immatureness. They should have hired a talented director to show them how it is done. What a waste!

My overall assessment: vile, disgusting and very much a 'walkout-able' freak-flick.
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Utter Trash
Eric_Cubed2 January 2015
I like James Franco. He is no doubt a very talented actor and very smart academician-a PHD candidate for sure. I though he was supreme as the meth huffing villain in Home-front, the weed-dealing side-kick in Pineapple Express and as Harry Osbourne for sure. But at the helm of interpreting Cormac McCarthy's worst and most depraved screenplay onto film? This movie is utter trash. Though the actor playing Lester Ballard is truly magnificent, I still can't help but to picture him gumming and grimacing his way through his lines like the unholy impunity of a constipated Charlton Heston in The Planet of the Apes as essentially a waste of his talent. Is this character a troglodyte man-ape or a severely traumatized boy who saw his father hanged and his mother abandon him. Did we really have to see him portrayed as Ben Stiller's retarded character in Tropic of Thunder? This was a opportunity to portray a multi-layered, complex character with elements of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, developmental trauma and child abuse, driven to necrophilia. James, I respect your artistic vision, but please take a hint from The Road.
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Review: 'Child of God', Starring Scott Haze
mae-abdulbaki12 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
It's a surprise to some that James Franco has carved a little corner for himself in the Hollywood scene, much less capable of directing films. Child of God isn't his first foray in the director's chair, but it is most certainly one of his more intriguingly creepier films, mostly thanks to the source material by Cormac McCarthy. While the movie might not appeal to a larger audience, there's no doubt that the its lead actor Scott Haze will be getting praise for his fantastic performance as the grizzly and socially inept lead character.

Lester Ballard (Scott Haze) has no home, family, or friends to speak of. He's been abandoned by everything humans essentially need to keep going and is living outside the social order. Ballard is uneducated, can barely speak in complete and understandable sentences, and lives in the woods outside of town. Mostly, he keeps to himself, save for the times he gets arrested by the town's police for disturbing the peace or some other minor incident.

Alone and away from any form of human contact, Ballard happens across a car one night where a young couple has stopped to have sex where there are no interruptions. Ballard leaves and comes across the car again a few hours later only to find the car still running and the couple dead. Never having any human contact, Ballard has sex with the dead girl and then drags her back to his cabin, makes sure she's comfortable, and then later goes shopping to find her a pretty dress to wear. Creeped out yet? Because it gets weirder.

Up to this point, though Ballard's actions are extremely disturbing, he doesn't harm anybody living and keeps mostly to himself. But one night, he wakes up in the middle of the night to a fire in his cabin. He manages to get out and tries to rescue his very dead girlfriend, but she gets burned up and essentially dies a second time. The loss of his only human contact drives Ballard over the edge and turns him into something even more disturbing: a cave-dwelling, psychopath and murderous necrophiliac.

The subject matter can get extremely uncomfortable and disturbing at several points in the film. Cormac McCarthy's work is always difficult to bring to the screen and it's noticeable throughout the first half of the movie. The film is split into three acts, with some narration included in the first act as background information.

The rest of this review will be praise for Scott Haze's portrayal of Lester Ballard. Haze went into isolation for three months for this role and claims it changed his life. He pulls out all the stops and is practically unrecognizable while on screen. Haze does some pretty disgusting things, and his performance is downright disturbing, creepy, and shudder-inducing. The actor outshines the rest of the film, especially in the final half of the film and whether or not you'll find the movie enjoyable, Haze gives one of the best performances of the year. He's fantastic and his work in this film deserves an award.

The novel by Cormac McCarthy is dense and often hard to interpret, as is the film adaptation. Child of God is a mediocre attempt to bring McCarthy's disturbed character to life. The material is uncomfortable and more creepy than a lot of things you'll see in theaters this year. If you're incensed really easily, then this may not be for you, but it's ultimately worth watching for Scott Haze's performance alone.
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Wicked Wicked Movie!...but quite enjoyed it...
MovieHoliks14 May 2015
All-around "Renaissance Man", James Franco, directed and co-wrote this little period piece film based on the novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy.

Set in mountainous Sevier County, Tennessee, in the 1960s, "Child of God" tells the story of Lester Ballard, a dispossessed, violent man whom the narrator describes as "a child of God much like yourself perhaps." Ballard's life is a disastrous attempt to exist outside the social order of things. Deprived of parents and homes and with few other ties (after his parents die and he's kicked out of their home), Ballard descends literally- and figuratively- into that of a cave dweller as he falls deeper into crime and just all-around degradation.

Okay, I must say, with my wicked, dark sense of humor, I actually found this quite amusing at times. Scott Haze, who plays Lester, would just get these looks on his face, and speak in that hillbilly gibberish (sometimes I think purposely so others wouldn't be able to understand his madness-?? LOL) and I would just crack up! Overall, I really enjoyed this piece. It will be interesting to see where Franco's directing career will be at ten years from now..??
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Not For Everyone
Theo Robertson22 April 2015
Warning: Spoilers
With Corman McCarthy you know you're not going to get light , frothy family friendly fare . NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN saw film producers queue up to buy film rights for his novels and to be fair THE ROAD is one of the most memorable post apocalyptic American cinema has produced in a very long time , as long as you get past the unrelenting nihilistic mood . With CHILD OF GOD the same in your face attempt to shock the audience is present and at four minutes in the audience are treated to a graphic scene of a character doing a poo ! That gives you an idea of how the film continues and if you don't like CHILD OF GOD by this stage turn off and find90 minutes to do something else


Despite the cast being headed by the prolific James Franco who also directs Franco only appears in cameo . Instead the story is centered around Lester Ballard played by Scott Haze , an outsider of society whose unsocial behaviour eventually mutates in anti-social serial murder . It is a good performance and one wonders if Franco might have had one eye of the Oscars of getting Haze an Oscar nomination . It's certainly worthy of a nom and reading the trivia section we learn Haze takes method acting to new heights by preparing for the role by sleeping in the open and living in a cave . Perhaps by trying too hard the voters of these prestigious awards decided to ignore Haze for this very reason ?

More likely however is that when you're playing a character it's essential that the audience emphasise with your aims . Now I don't mean the audience have to agree or sympathise with these aims but must understand them at the most basic fundamental level . Here we see Ballard embark on a killing spree . Fair enough , show me someone who doesn't harbour abstract murderous fantasies and I will show you a hypocritical liar but killing people because of motives of necrophilia is something entirely different . There might be reasons why having sex with a dead body is preferable to a live one but none springs to mind . I have also never watched a film thinking to myself "Hmmm not a bad film but we could have benefited from a few scenes of necrophilia inserted in to it" ; Like pooing necrophilia isn't a spectator sport . The fact that Franco shoots the film with hand-held cameras giving everything a cinema verite feel adds to the alienating feel

CHILD OF GOD is an example of a film being well made and acted but also lives up to the phrase "It's not a film for everyone" .meaning it has little commercial appeal and isn't popcorn entertainment for the masses . Bleak and depressing it's one of these films I'm unsure I should have watched in the first place and I'm rather sure I have no compulsion to watch it again . You have been warned
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Shocking performance! 4/10
leonblackwood10 May 2014
Review: Man, this film is really weird. It's one of those films that is more shocking than good or bad. It's all about one man living in the woods, surviving on next to nothing and is slightly crazy in the head. The movie is definitely original and disturbing in some parts, but it's watchable if you have the stomach for it. It's hard to imagine James Franco writing such a detailed drama which doesn't have much dialogue, but there is enough material to make the movie interesting. The ending could have done with a bit of work, but the performances were excellent and very realistic. Watchable!

Round-Up: I haven't seen the leading character in any other movies, but he has definitely impressed me with his performance in this movie. He really pushed his character to the limit, even though I didn't understand what the hell he was saying half of the time. As usual, they have put James Franco's face all over the poster to sell the movie, but he is only in a couple of scenes which could have been played by anybody. Because the movie is based around one character, there isn't much else I can say about any other performances. In some ways, I was quite impressed with James Franco's direction, but I can't help thinking that his mind is totally out there.

I recommend this movie to people who are into there extremely deep dramas about a man who lives in the wilderness and survives on next to nothing. 4/10
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Franco continues to show what an amazingly talented and diverse filmmaker he can be!
Hellmant1 October 2014
'CHILD OF GOD': Four Stars (Out of Five)

Director James Franco's adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's 1973 novel (of the same name) about a violent outcast trying to survive on his own, in a world that's shun him; set in the beautiful mountains of 1960s Sevier County, Tennessee. Franco also costars in the movie and co-wrote it, with Vince Jolivette. The film also stars Scott Haze (as it's central character, Lester Ballard), as well as Tim Blake Nelson, Jim Parrack, Brian Lally and Jolivette. I haven't read the book, and don't know how much justice Franco does to it, but this movie is definitely fascinating to watch.

Haze plays Lester Ballard; a depraved man child who lost his parents at a very young age and was continuously rejected by society (all of his life). Forced to live on his own, in the mountains of 1960s Tennessee, Ballard becomes more and more mentally unstable, and increasingly violent, due to society's isolation of him. Nelson and Parrack play a sheriff and his deputy; who are following Ballard. Franco plays a man obsessed with taking the law into his own hands, against Ballard.

While (as I've said) I can't comment on how this film lives up to the book that inspired it; I can say that it's almost equally as entertaining and interesting as other McCarthy film adaptations (like 'NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN', 'THE ROAD' and 'THE COUNSELOR'). All of these movies take a very disturbing and twisted look at human nature. I think Franco does as good a job, as the others, attempting to bring classic McCarthy literature to the big screen (although 'THE COUNSELOR' was actually an original screenplay, written by McCarthy). With this, and 'AS I LAY DYING' (from just last year), Franco continues to show what an amazingly talented and diverse filmmaker he can be. He does an incredible job of showing how society's alienation of someone can turn them to total madness. There is little light or hope here, which is it's main flaw, but it is a very interesting psychological character study and also a horrendously fascinating thriller. I can't wait to see what Franco does next!

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Dull Movie with Worn Out Plot
TheRedDeath3017 November 2014
James Franco seems to be trying to make a reputation for himself as a director who will tackle "classic novels" that were considered to be unfilmable, as he did with AS I LAY DYING. Let's say this about the Cormac McCarthy source novel, though. You will hear a lot of praise heaped upon it by the literary intellectuals. What you hear, though, is that the author has an original way with his prose, or that it's well known for a distinctive writing style that is missing common punctuation. What you don't usually hear is "this is a stunningly original and exciting story". It's the style that is praised more than the story.

That has an obvious effect on this movie, then, as you cannot translate the prose to the screen (though Franco tries by injecting voice- overs and on screen text containing actual excerpts). What you are left with is a story that isn't all that exciting and has been done plenty of times. Yes, the necrophilia angle takes it further than most movies are willing to go, but in the end, this is just another Ed Gein influenced horror tales. What it desperately needed was to have something more happen in the actual events of the story. There is very little actual action and very little occurs in this movie. Prepare yourself to spend a great deal of the run time following our main character as he wanders around in the woods talking to himself.

It is the main character and the acting by Scott Haze that is the central reason anyone would want to watch this movie. It is mainly a character study of one man, who we meet in the beginning clearly already suffering from mental illness. Through the course of the events of the story, we watch his mental health further degrade until he is little more than a primal animal, living in a cave and acting out his sexual deviances on whatever victims stumble his way. Haze does an excellent job of portraying this character, who mostly mumbles his way through the movie, putting the emphasis on Haze to portray the characters mental instability through his facial expression. The character could have become a cardboard cutout villain, but through the acting of Haze and some directing by Franco, the character definitely has his sympathetic moments where we feel for the situations that have put him down this course in life.

Ultimately, though, I was just bored through most of the movie. I don't mind artistic. I don't mind low budget. I don't mind experimental. I am not someone who just doesn't have a tolerance for this style of film making. Instead, the only real action is a botched lynching that he escapes from far too conveniently. I just kept waiting for something to happen and it never did, including a huge letdown ending.
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unexpectedly watchable with great performance
BasicLogic15 April 2015
well done, Mr. Franco. after watched this film, i have to say that you are indeed got something we called 'talent'. this film has put you in a totally different category and level. the original story created by the author of 'no country for old man' was such a weird one but in other word, a very very disturbing and sad one. we got a crazy, stone-cold bloody killer in 'no country for old man', now we got a half crazy, half idiotic lone-wolf-like loco hilly-billy roaming aimlessly day and night. we saw him gradually deteriorated, became crazier, became a more and more violent sociopath. he at first was not a rapist but was imprisoned as a rapist, that jail time had changed him into another unsalvageable rapist and a serial killer, an incurable social disease. Scott haze had successfully performed an Oscar level character, very convincing, very intense, very pitiful dejected person who step by step turned into a half human, half animal like tragic role. what made this novel and the adapted film unique is although the 'lester' guy did a lot of unthinkable crimes, we, the viewers, seemed not be able to hate him as we usually hate a vicious killer, murderer or a rapist. this character has gently affected us to sympathize him as a victimized victim. after watched this film, i have found that i could not judge or blame him as a bad person by all means, even he had caused lot of troubles and deaths, i seemed to still consider him as another kind of victim.

this is a great viewing experience.
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Academy award winning performance in a disgusting disturbing movie.
lboyajianpatterson30 July 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Everyone leaving the theater agreed that this was a disgusting, disturbing, nauseating movie. There were many times I wanted to get up and leave but there was a thread of compassion for this person which is what the director James Franco wanted you to feel.

He was brave for presenting a film so outside of anything you've ever seen before and with an actor so brilliant and convincing, yet my recommendation is to avoid this movie.

It's the story of a man who's last family died when he was 9, and when he is older, the bank takes his home so he is lost and alone living in the woods and turning into a feral animal. It's graphic about defecation, mucus, and necrophilia, but the fact that no one left the theater is a miracle.

Scott Haze who played the lead, went into the woods of Tennessee to prepare for the role and spent much of his time living alone. He ate only fish and apples and lost 35 lbs to prepare for this sad, haunting, disturbing performance. Most of the time you can't understand what he says and he is on screen for most of the movie with little human communication.

James Franco wanted to convey (In an interview after the movie) how all people have the same needs, and this was done. I thought that his direction was brilliant. Yet, it is so wrong to put his name on the film as one of the actors when he has what really amounts to a cameo appearance.

In summation, cheer on Scott Haze if he is nominated, as he should be for an academy award and also James Franco for direction. Don't miss any of his next performances, but avoid this movie unless you have a very strong stomach.
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Unintentional Comedy
karlyoconnell5 September 2018
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is neither a work of art, a horror or anywhere near the worst movie I have ever seen. It is simply what I can only describe as an unintentional comedy. This lunatic runs around the entire movie returning to the same old mans house. He speaks like a crazed maniac and looks just that. Yet is constantly returning to the scene of what is to be a crime. Over and over this mentally deranged dirty lunatic returns not only is this hilarious but he tries to deny who he is insisting he doesn't know it's private property (speaking in a manner similar to the first cockroach alien did in men in black while asking for sugar). Even his grotesque sex with a corpse was over and over again rediculous and funny as he hauled her in and out of the roof and had a date with her. He then burnt his dead gf to a crisp and blamed the stuffed animals, which led to him shooting at them for conspiring against him. Am I right in thinking that this sounds like random ideas of perverted yet hilarious crazy scenes crudely dredged together. Overall it was a bad movie but I laughed and I don't think I was supposed to. I was entertained but not in the way it was intended. Not for everyone but please don't make the mistake of thinking this is some cinematic artistic journey it is weird, crude and unintentially funny.
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nogodnomasters11 August 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Scott Haze convincingly plays the title role as Lester Ballard, a mentally deficient adult who lives off the land in rural Tennessee. He is the type of man who yells at passing cars. The film is set in the 1950s (?) in late autumn. The only home Lester has known was recently auctioned off. Through a series of circumstances Lester discovers necrophilia, which has never been one of my favorite film topics, except for maybe as a dark comedy which this wasn't.

I will say the acting was excellent. The story was done well, bravo James Franco, but unfortunately didn't go anywhere. This is an excellent crime/ drama/ thriller, I didn't enjoy.

Parental Guide: F-bomb, sex, necrophilia, nudity (Nina Ljeti, Elena McGhee)
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Meant for people who have read the book.
mraiche198016 July 2018
This movie is actually pretty good. The problem with it is that it does not stand alone as a movie. If you haven't read the book, you probably won't like the movie. If you have read the book, then you will enjoy this adaptation of a sympathetic depiction of a lonely serial killer.
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Whitest Teeth I Ever Did See on a Bum
nammage15 June 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I give anyone props on taking on a Cormac McCarthy novel and trying to make a film out of it. There have been a few successes "No Country for Old Men", "All the Pretty Horses" and maybe "The Road" -- I found that film below average, myself. But hey, who am I but no one. Did Franco fair well with this one? I don't know yet, I'm only 21 minutes in. What caught my eye; as the title to this review states: Lester Ballard (Scott Haze) has the whitest teeth for a character who appears not to have bathed himself or changed his clothes in over a year. Not saying it isn't possible just seems highly unlikely the dude brushes his teeth once or twice a day, flosses etc., Perhaps it's just me, or not, haven't read but one other review and they didn't mention Ballard's clean shiney teeth.

The last Franco film I saw was "The Institute" (2017). I hated it. Gave it a 1/10. It ripped off "The Wicker Man" from 1973 and pretty much used every female character as nothing but naked girls to whistle at. Idiotic. I did like "The Sound and The Fury" (2014), another difficult novel to make a film out of. What I know about the over 11,000 films and 10,000 TV shows (by episode) I have rated here is there has to be at least one character one attaches themselves to. Whether you have an emotional attachment or not is irrelevant; just need the attachment because it carries you along the story. Makes you pay attention to the little things; makes you wonder if you can relate in some way. Since Ballard is the one you mainly see in this, that's who we get to attach to.

Ballard is an interesting character. I enjoyed the scene where he won the stuffed animals and then enjoyed the fireworks. There you see a sort of gentle side of Ballard. But we know he isn't right in the head and is prone to extreme violence. Mentally he's like a child but not stupid. When he finds the car with the two deceased young boy and girl who died from (more likely) exhaust fumes, at first (like a young pubescent boy) he fondles the girl, leaves, goes back and has sex with her dead body then leaves but leaving the vehicle like it was when he found it, but then he goes back and takes the girl to his shack. Child-like and definitely mentally disturbed.

In the first hour of the film I always got the feeling that he wanted to be 'normal' like everyone else. Like when he buys a dress and makeup for the dead girl he's perpetually in a 'relationship' with. Don't know where he gets his money from, did wonder about that. Maybe his father left him some money before he died. Who knows. The film is actually quite slow in its telling. Not boring, just slow. When the shack caught on fire I did wonder if he would go back in and 'save' the dead girl. To his detriment: he did try to save her. It was sort of sad to see him there with just his stuffed tiger and bear watching the shack, his already dead girlfriend, and the other stuffed bear burn. I actually pitied him for a moment. When he shot his stuffed animals repeatedly while weeping and yelling at them, in that moment I felt he was schizophrenic. Then he became a murderer or more succinct: a serial killer. I think he became a murderer because only the dead or inanimate could love him, in his mind. It's hard to understand such people, I guess.
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Not for the faint of heart but good.
getsmartoc-5442129 October 2017
I think that 5.5 is a harsh score for such a good (maybe not a word that applies to this story, as it is sheer "horror" but...) adaption of the book (it should be noted that it is not an exact replication of the story in the book). 7 out of 10, not for the story but for the job done in making it.

A lot of people love to hate on Mr. Franco it would seem, personally I don't get it but that's their business I reckon. What I can talk about is his direction of this movie and, in my opinion, he did a great job with the material. Like I said the story is sheer horror and selected (selected audience that is) viewing is HIGHLY recommended. Perhaps only people familiar with the book should watch this film, seriously it's not for the faint of heart.

The acting is excellent all round, especially Mr. Haze's performance as Lester Ballard, scary stuff indeed. Locations are beautiful and the scene (props etc.) is set very well.

All in all, a "good" film for people that like disturbing movies.
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