Title – Last Days in the Desert (2015)
Director – Rodrigo Garcia (Albert Nobbs)
Cast – Ewan McGregor, Tye Sheridan, Ciarán Hinds, Ayelet Zurer
Plot – An imagined version of the story of Jesus’s (McGregor) and his meeting with a family as he fasts in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights, tempted by the Devil (also McGregor).
“The desert is ruthless. It strips you of your vanities, your illusions and gives you the opportunity to see yourself for who you are”
Review by Eddie on 29/08/2017
A slow burning affair that will have many reaching for the off button or catching a quick nap during proceedings, Rodrigo Garcia visually striking and occasionally touching interpretation of Jesus’s time of 40 days and 40 nights of fasting isn’t a film for everyone but considering the other faith based films that have come our way over recent times, The Last Days in the Desert is a cut above other similar fair.
Joining Jesus’s last portion of his experience as he travels back towards Jerusalem through the solemn desert, tempted as he goes, only for him to find a place of resting and meaning with Ciaran Hind’s poor farming family consisting of a sick wife and depressed son, whose played rather disappointingly by Tye Sheridan.
With this, Garcia is less concerned with focusing on Jesus’s more solitary trip, rather the “what if” scenario of his dealings with such a family and the moral choices he makes within his time with them, as he too continues to ponder his important future that lay at the end of his trip.
Played surprisingly by Ewan McGregor, who makes little to no effort at hiding his far from suitable linage in concerns to playing the Middle Eastern messiah but makes it work by the films later stages, we do get a great sense of feeling at the enormity of Jesus’s path that he must follow and even though we get no glimpses of miracles or out of the ordinary occurrences, the story humanises Jesus’s to the point that he feels like an ordinary man, set forth on an extraordinary journey and it’s a nice point of difference from other such films that would prefer to focus on the miraculous, over the everyday.
It would’ve been an easy sell or a more obvious choice for Garcia to go all out and let his imagination run wild but the most out-there we get is McGregor playing off against McGregor as the prince of this world assumes the form of Jesus as he tries to cloud his judgement of what is to come.
The other detail working in Garcia’s film favour is the stunning work of Terrence Malick’s DOP Emmanuel Lubezki who captures the unforgiving lands of the Middle East with stunning authority.
Anyone familiar with Malick’s more recent works will be able to instantly pinpoint the skills of the world class cinematographer as his camera glides over the dusty landscape and follows the cast on their various strolls and combined with Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans classy score, Last Days feels like a polished and assured production, even if its fanfare free release suggests it wasn’t going to be the case.
Final Say –
At times to slow and ponderous to ever threaten to become a must-see with slightly too much focus on Hind’s and his family, Garcia who has shown a wise hand with fine dramas like Mother and Child and Nine Lives delivers an above average interpretation of a well-known Bible story and The Last Days in the Desert ends up becoming a quietly moving portrait of a human being unlike any other that was set on upon a path of greatness.
3 big bed bugs out of 5