Last Days in the Desert

A contemplative and meditative film that was more a family and morality drama rather than a didactic scripture lecture from writer/director Rodrigo Garcia, son of literary legend Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Absolutely beautifully shot by three consecutive-times Oscar winner for cinematography, Emmanuel Lubezki. Ewan McGregor and Ciaran Hinds were outstanding in their roles, but Tye Sheridan was badly miscast. And how come no one is complaining about whitewashing in this case?

There is a joke somewhere there in the casting: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mance Ryder and Cyclops walked in the desert…

Garcia’s story definitely had traces of his father’s Magical Realism and really that could be the only way to tell the fictional story of those 40 days in the desert. Some parts were a bit too heavy-handed on the religious symbology, but Garcia effectively told a story that explored the themes of Family, Morality, Filial Piety, Self vs Others without alienating the non-Judeo-Christian audience member.

The epilogue will surely draw some debate. Initially I wished it could have just ended earlier, but that final scene really cinched the moment and made the epilogue worth it.

It took a while to accept that McGregor was playing Jesus, but McGregor’s portrayal of a lost son seeking meaning and self-reflection gradually roped the audience into his internal conflict. Having him play the dual role of The Devil was effective on paper, but on screen, it appeared more gimmicky than expected, with Garcia using the dual images of McGregor to re-enforce some rather heavy handed imageries.

Similarly, Hind’s patriarchal figure had moments when Garcia (and Lubezki) framed him to be more Old Testament than New.

Sheridan just stood there mostly, slacked-jaw and dulled eyes.

Lubezki’s cinematography was stunningly beautiful but at times it could be distracting. His favoured used of wide-angle lenses and shots of dusks and dawn are seemingly becoming his trademark.


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