Last Days In The Desert follows 40 days in the desert spent with a very human version of Jesus and Lucifer played by Scottish actor.
Were this not about Jesus, or had Garcia chosen to make it less obvious, I wouldn’t be so defensive. Regardless of your faith/believes, when it comes to a biblical or historical figure, being historically accurate is important. So accepting that a Galilean is portrayed by a stubble-bearded, blue-eyed 40-something year old is difficult. In truth, Last Days In The Desert raises a lot of questions regarding the script choices. Like why Christ would ask the devil about the face and presence of God? It’s baffling.
So if one were to remove the biblical aspect, it would be an intriguing psychological tale in some sense. Seeking solitude in the desert to meditate and hear God’s voice more clearly is popular among ‘holy men’. The hospitable man (Ciaran Hinds) quickly knows why Jesus is out there by Himself, oblivious to whom he speaks until a very beautiful moment before his death as he touches the face of the Messiahs.
McGregor’s Jesus has a yearning innocence about him, yet He doesn’t actively seek to hear God’s voice. He is distracted by a sickly mother (Avelet Zurer), a young son who entertains Him with riddles (Tye Sheridan) and the father. No names are used, only Yeshua (Hebrew for Jesus).
Jesus spends his days helping with chores, listening, and doubting Himself in His advice. No parables, no miracles, no true wisdom. He is just a man, fasting and being a sense of comfort for this isolated family of three. With the mother dying, the son wants to travel with Jesus to Jerusalem. He has different dreams for himself than that of his father. They are estranged from one another. The father wants to reach out, but he just doesn’t know how to connect with his son. The film has an honest message about the relationship between fathers and sons that challenges the patriarch traditions.
In between, the devil (also played by McGregor) chats to Jesus. He appears rather lonely, and doesn’t make much of an effort to provoke or tempt Jesus. Instead, he is bitter and bored. The devil becomes the embodiment of the saying ‘you are your own worst enemy’. One almost wished they shared more moments. The psychological battle is always powerful.
Thanks to cinematographer Lubeski, the various dream sequences, or rather nightmares, Jesus has truly stood out. These are short but beautiful and alarming. The orchestral score provides the right amount of tension and flow to the plot. There is very little dialogue needed, and it succeeds but then Garcia leaps towards the crucifixion and modern day that completely throws it off.
Last Days In The Desert is a very different take on Jesus’ time in the desert. Unfortunately, it’s not very memorable.