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Last Days in the Desert Review

13 May

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I’m not a huge fan of deserts because they suck, but Emmanuel Lubezki sure can make them look good. The land we see is beautiful in its simplicity, the crags and the never-ending sand serving as the perfect backdrop for Jesus taking an extended walk. Once again, it’s all natural light used here, the sweeping panoramas and intimate close-ups giving us a good sense of both the personal aspect of the story and the insignificance of it to the desert itself. Plus, there’s one shot near the end that is just so damn gorgeous in its use of flames set against a purple-ish sky. To sum up, it’s not shocking that Lubezki’s top notch work is the main highlight of the film.

Of course, other (lesser) people are involved in this project aside from Chivo. The performances are all solid, the Danny Bensi-Saunder Jurriaans score is fitting, and the screenplay does a nice job of combining wit with heavier themes. However, the story feels a bit lacking at times. Granted, it’s all minimalist by design, but its sparse nature leads less to contemplation and more to ambivalence. It doesn’t pull you into its world so much as it floats you in and out, its father-son parallels not quite resonating by the time the end credits roll around. Nevertheless, the internal conflict Yeshua faces is intriguing enough to keep this film from falling into the abyss of dullness, and there are powerful images and moments scattered throughout that tell a compelling human story. In a world where God’s Not Dead exists, at least someone’s trying to make something with a bit of intelligence.

GRADE: B-

AN ASIDE: I had no idea the cast and crew were going to show up at my screening, but they were all there! I even got to shake Ewan McGregor’s hand and compliment Emmanuel Lubezki on Children of Men. Being in LA sure has its perks.

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Photo credits: Broad Green Pictures, Last Days in the Desert

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