Details: (MA15+), 105 mins, United States, English
Synopsis: Elvis is discharged from the navy. Via whorehouse and used car lot he arrives in Corpus Christi, Texas, the home of the father he's never met. Pastor Paul is a well-to-do minister who rejects Elvis, explaining that his dalliance with Elvis' mother, a now dead Mexican prostitute, was before he became a Christian. In response, Elvis begins to seduce the Pastor's sixteen-year-old daughter Malerie, eventually making her pregnant.
A very confidant directorial debut.
Since bursting into world cinemas with Amores Perros in 2000, Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal's career has sky-rocketed, with roles in great international movies like The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) and Bad Education (2004). The latest film in which he stars is The King, an independent American production which also just happens to be his first English language feature. It is an 'interesting' selection for his first foray into American film, more 'a challenging movie' than the 'hop skip and jump' straight into commercial Hollywood that might instantly sew up his American career for life, one might expect from such an actor so poised for international stardom.
The King is a modest production but its story is of biblical proportions. Set in the Texas bible-belt, Bernal plays Elvis (so-named after another 'king'), a young man just released from a stint in the Navy. He is on a mission of a different kind now. It's personal: to track down the father who deserted him as a child.
William Hurt plays David, Elvis' 'MIA' dad, now a 'saved' man and pastor to a charismatic Christian congregation. Initially David doesn't want anything to do with his lost son, having made a brand new life and family that he feels must be protected from his less than squeaky-clean past. Yet undeterred and what's more, determined to have his father back in his life, Elvis continues to assert his claim over the family he never had through the most insidious of means. His actions however come with such 'sin' even the 'Almighty' might find hard to forgive.
To give any more away of the story would be to do the experience of watching this film a disservice. Suffice to say if you've read the bible or are familiar with any of the more 'freaky' family scenarios recorded in it The King will leave it's mark.
The performances by all involved are fantastic, veering from innocence and understatement to introspective, tormented and blank even, as their characters demand it. And it is a very confidant directorial debut by documentary maker James Marsh (Wisconsin Death Trip). But it is a film sure to divide audiences.
The King is a strange little movie reminiscent of indie pic In The Bedroom (2002) with its shocking, nihilistic outcome. Time is taken building its perverse religious and moral environment, inside a lovely atmospheric movie at odds with the pot-boiler scenario bubbling away in the story. It demands a lot from us as the story slowly descends into a kind of hell on earth.
For those predisposed to dark little numbers like this one, movies such as Spanking The Monkey (1994) or Salvation! (1987) that confront human nature at its darkest and most mistaken, they will enjoy it for those reasons. If not, it's bound to be written off as pointless, perverse or a blight on the indie movie landscape. I enjoyed it – a lot! It is a very solid film, but I was hoping that its conclusion would amount to a bit more than being completely reduced to Christian rhetoric.
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