James Marsh’s slow-burn meditation on the long- term, potentially violent effects, of child abandonment, military discipline, religious obsession, and attempted familial reconciliation is like a social abscess that the director barely pokes at before allowing the narrative to explode. Gael Garcia Bernal gives a knockout performance as Elvis Sandow, a 21-year-old man recently discharged from the Navy. Elvis returns to his childhood home in Corpus Christi, Texas to reconnect with his father David (William Hurt) who abandoned he and his mother more than 20 years ago.
Speaking with a perfect English accent Bernal embodies his troubled and opportunistic character with a seductive quality that lures the viewer into siding with his volatility before trapping you in its perilous clutches. Elvis approaches David, now the Baptist pastor of a local church. He identifies himself as the man’s bastard son. Caught off-guard, David tells Elvis to call him later so he can have time explain the situation to his picture-perfect suburban family. However, Elvis is more interested in seducing his 16-year-old alleged stepsister Malerie (Pell James), whom he neglects to tell of his relationship to her father. Elvis's baneful intentions quickly escalate as he ingratiates his way into the home of the family he detests with a pitch-black passion. This unsettling movie regards American narcissism with a cold eye of distanced persuasion. You will feel its aftershocks long after viewing it.
Rated R. 105 mins. (B) (Three Stars)