A 'Child Of God,' Or Maybe Not

August 1, 2014 11:31 AM

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A freewheeling yet writerly style and a fully committed lead performance distinguish Child of God, prolific actor-author-director James Franco's latest literary adaptation. Even when the movie works, however, it's hard to see past the lurid details of the Tennessee tale, adapted from Cormac McCarthy's 1973 exercise in backwoods noir.

Introduced while violently objecting to the auction of his family's foreclosed homestead, Lester Ballard is unsocialized and likely deranged. One of the movie's five narrators — neighbors whose deadpan voiceover observations are not necessarily reliable — calls him "a child of God much like yourself...

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