the fresh films reviews

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The King (2005)

James Marsh
The King
105 minutes
Milo Addica
James Wilson
Milo Addica
James Marsh

Cast includes:

Elvis Valderez Gael García Bernal ½
Paster David Sandow William Hurt ½
Malerie Sandow Pell James
Twyla Sandow Laura Harring
Paul Sandow Paul Dano ½



Here's a film that would probably have fared better had it chosen a somewhat different approach. It is – in essence – about a very malicious young man who does some very malicious things that you might at first think were motivated, but which after a while you realize were not. I like the ending chosen by young British director James Marsh, and I also like the two main characters, but I don't quite approve of the methods he uses to get them there.

The King opens as a handsome young man is discharged from the marines and is getting ready for a fresh, civilian start. He visits a hooker, buys himself a car, and then goes off to find his unknown father. When the father snubs him, we feel for the kid and approve of his persistence to find a way into his father's life. The methods he uses, however, are unorthodox to say the least; hitting on his 16-year old half sister and inducing an affair with her. This is a crucial point in the film, because we now start to question the morals of this young man. He obviously has few scruples, knowing that the girl is his sister (something she doesn't know), but at the same time, couldn't he just be in love? There's a delightful combination of indecency and sexiness to the scenes depicting the two lovers. And the fact that Pell James is more than ten years older than her character is not more than slightly destructive.

The problems with The King only commence when it really gets interesting morally, thematically and narratively. There are a few twists taking place that seriously engage the mind, but we need to get more under the skin of the Elvis character if the film is to pull off the direction it takes. There also are a couple of substantial leaps taken from both the Malerie character and the father which aren't very well accounted for. Sure, Malerie is in love, but her choices aren't justified well enough to make the continuation of the film as credible and hence potent as it should have been.

William Hurt has got something very interesting going on with the character of the father. He's a pastor, and therefore very much at the center of what this film is about: sin, redemption, forgiveness and morals. Unfortunately, The King never comes close enough to the Hurt character either, and as a result, the effectiveness is greatly reduced. Hurt and García Bernal are both all talent. I wish the filmmakers had been able to exploit that more.

Copyright © 1.12.2006 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang