As I Lay DyingCannes Film Festival 2013
Artist, actor and writer James Franco is also a director, and a good one at that, judging by his screen adaptation of William Faulkner’s novel As I Lay Dying.
A poor rural family from Mississippi, the Bundrens, must face the death of their mother and honour her last wish to be buried in her hometown of Jefferson. The four sons, daughter and father take the homemade coffin on their old horse-drawn cart, and begin on a journey that quickly becomes a horrible experiment in poverty and lacking in luck.
James Franco didn’t choose the easiest adaptation: As I Lay Dying is a highly literary story, which makes for a difficult transition to film. But with an interesting technique of split screen and wonderful photography, Franco succeeds in pulling off a movie of great sensibility and emotion. His use of narration, executed by most of the characters facing the camera, allows the audience to catch a glimpse of true feelings that are otherwise hidden as much as possible.
The cast is convincing especially Tim Blake Nelson as the uncaring father, who refuses to change his mind about taking his wife to her chosen graveyard. Ahna Reilly plays the sister with real fragility, while young Brady Parmenter brings freshness and hope to this miserable family. Jim Parrack and Logan Marshall-Green’s performances as two of the sons are admirable. James Franco casts himself in the part of the fourth brother, which may be one of his mistakes: as the director, he fails to distance himself from his scenes, which are too considered to be believable. His feature would have benefit to have him all along behind the camera, even if As I Lay Dying is already a strong and confident piece of cinema.
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Watch the trailer for As I Lay Dying here :