Ewan McGregor is Jesus - and the Devil - in an imagined chapter from his forty days of fasting and praying in the desert. On his way out of the wilderness, Jesus struggles with the Devil over the fate of a family in crisis, setting for himself a dramatic test.
This is one film that I have been waiting to see since January 2015. After it premiered at the Sundance film fest and received solid praise out of the gate, I was looking forward to it. But was it picked up for a wide release? No it was not. So, nearly a year and a half later it has finally hit shelves. Recently the box office has had an abnormally high amount of pandering faith driven religious films. Which isn't really a bad thing. They certainly know their audience, and they have cornered the market for their films. That being said, this isn't one of those films. Seeing a movie that is largely religion based you normally see the typical one sided, you're wrong and we are right thing.
I am happy to say that this doesn't do that. This adaptation is about Jesus, playing out in an imagined portion of his forty days of fasting in the desert. As he is trekking through the desert on his way home, he encounters a small family. He quickly realizes that they are in turmoil of emotional proportions.
He decides that their needs out way his own and attempts to aid them. The story mainly takes place during this period of time. Now this movie could have been so incredibly dull. The main story is fairly thin and it doesn't exactly move around that much. But writer/director Rodrigo García has infused this film with palpable emotion. The more we learn about this small family the more we realize that they are pretty dysfunctional.
The father and son don't see eye to eye on anything and the mother is laying on her death bed for the entirety of the films run time. For me the scenes between the son and father really struck true. I often have experienced the same communication issues with various people that these two do. Where you want to say something but don't know how and before you know it, the moment to express that feeling has pasted.
As these issues become more prevalent the more you just want them to work it out. This creates some real drama with in these scenes. But the shining moments of the film come in the short encounters between Ewan McGregor and Ewan McGregor. Who plays both Jesus and the devil. The conversations that they have point out both sides of the religion spectrum.
It presents interesting arguments for both parties. Which honestly helps you feel what Jesus is feeling. The whole point of Jesus's desert journey was to be put on trial to see if he could over come any adversity that the devil could come up with. So when the film puts him through these temptations and presents interesting arguments for either side, it helps you get into the characters shoes.
That being said this film still has a story that is thin as paper. So when you get outside the family drama it can be rather dull. The beautiful cinematography by Lubezski can carry one through a few scenes but not too many. There are some scenes where we watch McGregor just pace around the rocky terrain for long periods of time. And it left me longing for something, anything to happen.
This movie may not be the religious experience some people are looking for but it's really a breath of fresh air in a genre that had little going for it. It seems to have a keen grasp on the story it's adapting and does so with no shortage of grace. It offers excellent performances, beautiful visuals, an insightful story, and characters that you can actually get invested in. If it weren't for the thin plotting and some dull sequences this would truly be an excellent film. But considering all it does right it's definitely worth a watch.
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