James Franco’s adaptation of William Faulkner’s novel As I Lay Dying is an overlong and overwrought drama that lacks strong direction.
As ailing Addie Bundren nears her end, her family must prepare for her funeral and burial. Addie wishes to be buried in the nearby town of Jefferson, and her family must honour her request when she passes away…
There is nothing wrong with a slow-burning film which is less than laden with dialogue. However, As I Lay Dying lacks the atmosphere to make it work. What is left is a film that seems to take an age to get anywhere, and even then there is no pay off in the destination.
As I Lay Dying appears to be aiming at something grander than what is actually conveyed. The film lacks the emotion necessary, given the plot and narrative style. All the longing looks do not negate the need for characters that the audience can care about.
As the film progresses, a number of the family’s issues come to light. Nonetheless, these are not explored in a way which makes them engaging. Furthermore, a lack of depth makes these strands feel unsatisfying.
The split screen effect which is employed so readily does not work. Had it been used sparingly it might have been less jarring. Frequent shots of James Franco staring off into the distance add nothing to the plot or atmosphere.
Performances in the film are adequate. Tim Blake Nelson is convincing as Anse Bundren, as is Ahna O’Reilly as daughter Dewey. Logan Marshall-Green is decent, but given little to do besides look angry.
As I Lay Dying is the perfect film for viewers how want to see incessant shots of James Franco looking constipated. Others are best off giving it a wide berth.
As I Lay Dying is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2013.