Lester Ballard is a man who attempts to live outside of humanity and the organized social order after having been rejected by society for most of his life. Deep in the mountains of Tennessee, Ballard has grown increasingly unstable and violent, as he has co-existed away from other people for so long. His disturbing and unorthodox existence draws the ire of nearby townspeople and law enforcement.
‘Child of God’ is a captivatingly complex and disturbing vignette centered on a man dispossessed of any meaningful connections to society (or humanity for that matter). James Franco, from the director’s chair, adequately visualizes the dark and complex prose of Cormac McCarthy, though there is a constant feeling throughout that Franco might have been a bit too concerned with the source material to take any artistic flourishes that might hinder a faithful recreation. McCarthy’s books are by no means simple reads. His use of metaphor and descriptive language allow various inroads for filmmakers to illustrate his words. Franco more times than not takes the easy way out to tell the story.
Scott Haze is enthralling as the crazed Lester Ballard. His addition of noticeable twitches and other mannerisms give the character a captivating level of depth. It is not just what he says or does that illicit Ballard’s mental state, but his entire self. Haze’s method acting transforms him into a visualization of the exact character McCarthy described.
‘Child of God’ is not a movie for everybody. It is disturbing and at times it will definitely grate against any sort of moral compass you have. Thought provoking films like this will stick with you (whether you want them to or not). This is not the type of movie that you admit to other people that you like, though you can readily admire the artistic endeavor necessary to explore human depravity in such a realistic and unsettling way.