Synopsis

Based on the classic novel by William Faulkner, first published in 1930, "As I Lay Dying" is the story of the death of Addie Bundren and her family's quest to honor her last wish to be buried in the nearby town of Jefferson.

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by farron34 8 /10

Challenging source makes for an interesting film

I don't think I've ever seen a film quite like this. It was definitely one of the most faithful adaptations I've ever seen, not only in the story but the way in which it was done. The novel (written by William Faulkner) features 15 different narrators recounting the events, the film (implementing split screen) was able to show different perspectives of the same events simultaneously.

Cinematically, most (if not all) of the camera work was hand-held, and much of the lighting seemed natural. I thought the acting was great overall, and I thought it was well directed. The music was intense, almost too much at times. The novel has never been adapted to the screen previously, (I'm sure partly) due to the fact that the narrative structure is so complex. Overall, I thought it was interesting, and like I said – I've never seen a more true adaptation, as Franco employs all aspects of filmmaking to sync to the novel.

Reviewed by RJR99SS 10 /10

Excellent adaptation.

I was almost shocked when i heard that they would be making a movie out of my favorite book, and the fact that James Franco and Danny McBride would be in it did not leave me with a good feeling. I was blown away, however, at what a great adaptation it is.

In fact, i'm not sure i'd even call it an adaptation. It IS the book. I cant think of any other movie that was truer to the source material. Obviously the book is much more long winded, and is filled with long, and often puzzling monologues from all the main characters. It's more dream like, and ponderous. But i cant think of anything that the movie left out, or missed, or put it's particular "spin" on, it was all dead on.

That said, the book is a difficult read. The movie is equally difficult. You could read the entire book, and have little idea what it's about. Similarly, you could easily watch this entire movie and be completely puzzled by it. There's a lot of important plot points that gets covered, and you barely even have time to realize exactly what it is the characters are saying. Once again though, the book is the same. Questions like: why is Varadamin's mom a fish? Why is Jewel's mom a horse? Why doesn't Darl have a mom? These are sort of answered, just like in the book, but they also seem completely absurd to even ask. It's a story more about the people involved in it, and not so much about the events that take place, or even the truthfulness of anything or anyone.

I would imagine most viewers will struggle to even understand what it is that the characters are saying, as they all have thick southern accents, Anse being almost unintelligible. Adding to the confusing is the fact that most everything they say is highly complex, poetry like prose that doesn't particularly care if you're following closely or not, they're still going to say it. Once again, pretty much how the book is.

So it's a difficult to understand book, and it's a difficult to understand movie. I certainly loved it, but i suspect most viewers will hate it.

Reviewed by 3xHCCH 7 /10

Contemplative Mortal Ruminations

"As I Lay Dying" is not an easy sell as a commercial film. The title already intimates that it will be a depressing story about Death. It is based on the novel of an author, who, while being a Nobel Laureate, is not really known for being very easy to read -- William Faulkner. Hence, we can expect a film that is similarly hard to watch. Upon giving it a go, I am not wrong on both counts.

This film is about the Bundrens, a poor but proud rural family from the boondocks of Mississippi. The mother Addie (Beth Grant) dies at the beginning of the film. Her husband Anse and their five children bring her coffin a long distance to Addie's hometown to be buried, in order to fulfill a dying wish. Along their long trip, we will get to know each character better as each one has his own little story to tell.

This is one very slow film which will strain the patience of the most moviegoers. The contemplative script is full of deep monologues as each character tells his version of life. It certainly reflects the style that Faulkner is famous for -- his stream of consciousness writing style as well as the multiple narrators.

This is the directorial debut of hard-working star James Franco, who has certainly gone a long way from when we first knew him as Harry Osborne in "Spider Man." He bravely tackles a difficult novel and he actually succeeds to visually interpret it very well. Once you get the drift of this languid storytelling style, and his attention-grabbing split screen technique, you will be mesmerized and drawn in. The imagery used is compelling as the grand country vistas contrast with intimate personal moments.

Easily the best performer in the cast is Tim Blake Nelson as the stubborn and irascible patriarch of the brood, Anse. He has most realistic portrayal with that hot-potato drawl of his, uttering the most maddening of pronouncements. There is actually humor in his unpleasantness.

The five Bundren children and the actors who play them, namely Cash (Jim Parrack), Darl (James Franco), Jewel (Logan Marshall-Green), Dewey Dell (Ahna O'Reilly) and little Vardaman (Brady Permenter), all have their moments. While Darl seemed to be the most centered of all the characters, ironically, it was James Franco who seemed to lack something in his portrayal. Maybe it is because we expect the most from him.

This film is not for everyone because of its glacial pace and dark brooding subject matter. But with the proper attitude and frame of mind, you may actually find this a fascinating rumination about life and mortality, as you immerse yourself in this grim slice of rural American life in the 1920s. 7/10.

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