Review: Last Days in the Desert

Last Days in the Desert is, above all else, bold.  Writer/ Director Roberto Garcia took on the weighty task of telling the story of Jesus returning from his 40 days in the desert, and all that happened to him on the way back to Jerusalem.  Ewan McGregor plays the role of the humble, thoughtful and, significantly, very human son of God. 

It's slow-churning narrative film making, the early scenes of Jesus navigating his route whilst fasting is juxtaposed with breathtaking panoramic shots of the desert.  In times of peril and struggle, indeed we come to question ourselves and everything that we thought true, as does McGregor's Jesus, often literally arguing with himself in scenes where he doubles up, showing the versatility of human nature, both sides of the coin.  There is more than a hint that this 'other' self is none other than the fallen angel, as Jesus seeks advice and knowledge around his omnipresent, but silent father.  This is when McGregor shows the strength of his, often underestimated, talent, and incredible versatility.  It is hard to think of another actor who could carry off these various personalities so subtly and effortlessly as he.

Soon he loses his way, and stumbles across a family living in a small area in the hills.  The father (Ciaron Hynes) is an old soul in that he is content to live as he does, happy in the knowledge that his dying wife and young son are close to him and under his protection.  The son, played by Tye Sheridan is a revelation.  Keen to leave the desert and start a new life, one of trade, he undermines his father in spirit, something that Jesus is quick to relate to.  Jesus is quickly thrust in the middle of this predicament, struggling against his two selves to act on what he doesn't accept as his immediate responsibility.

Themes of family, father-and-son and the frailty of human nature are brought together in a very powerful way.  Short of dialogue, Ewan must use his repertoire of physical acting as the audience are invited to forget what we known of this hostile environment, and instead search for their own readings of what it means to have faith within our world.  Indeed, the parting shot brings this all too closely to home, as we choose to forget our pasts and strive to look onward, forever onward.