Review: The biblical ‘Last Days in the Desert’ finds Ewan McGregor playing both sinner and saint
In the human space between a meditation completed and a ministry begun lies writer/director Rodrigo Garcia’s hushed, speculative parable “Last Days in the Desert,” in which Jesus (Ewan McGregor), his 40-day fast at an end, becomes embroiled in the domestic strife of an isolated family.
The quietly churning ingredients in this parched wilderness homestead are a protective, stubborn father (Ciarin Hinds) fearful of the larger world, his ready-to-bolt son (Tye Sheridan) who doesn’t want to be stuck living in the stone hut they’re building, and a sick mother (Ayelet Zurer) whose imminent death will force the issue between the two. Tossing in cynical commentary and the odd dare is the Devil, also played by McGregor as a sort of impish double, with the tiniest extra tang and the occasional flash of teeth.
But there’s only so much a well-meaning, decorously psychological four-hander can do, and ultimately “Last Days in the Desert” never quite hits its stride as either an art piece or a biblical variation. At times a beautiful wandering, at other times an admirable character study, but rarely a powerful whole.
‘Last Days in the Desert’
MPAA rating: PG-13 for some disturbing images and brief partial nudity
Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica
From the Emmys to the Oscars.
Get our revamped Envelope newsletter, sent twice a week, for exclusive awards season coverage, behind-the-scenes insights and columnist Glenn Whipp’s commentary.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.