Child of God

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Child of God Movie Poster Image
Adaptation of necrophilia drama is extremely disturbing.
  • R
  • 2014
  • 104 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The main message is conveyed in the film's first few minutes, via text printed on the screen that says the main character is a "child of God much like yourself perhaps." This could be taken many ways, but one of them is that we shouldn't be so quick to judge even the most lost souls; they're still human.

Positive Role Models & Representations

No one should ever even think about emulating any of the characters in this story.


To be blunt: This movie graphically depicts necrophilia. The main character is twice shown having sex with a dead woman. He also shoots several characters and kills a few. Splatters of blood are shown. He shoots several other things with his rifle, too, including a live cow and stuffed animals. He finds a lost, abandoned woman in the woods and tears at her clothes (she later falsely accuses him of rape). He also wears a dead girl's scalp and hair. There's some fighting, striking with blunt instruments, and a general sense of rage and anguish throughout. There are also some verbally told stories of violence, including a suicide by hanging.


The main character (who engages in necrophilia) finds young couples having sex in parked cars and observes them. In one scene, he masturbates, and in another, he shoots and kills them and takes the woman's body away. Some brief nudity is shown, mainly a breast on the dead woman (the character fondles it) and the main character's backside, both in a sexual and non-sexual context (he's shown defecating on screen).


Language is strong, frequent, and angry, often shouted. It includes "f--k," "motherf----r," "goddamn," "ass," "bitch," "hell," "son of a bitch," and "p---y." A middle finger gesture is shown.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A county sheriff is shown smoking cigarettes, and the main character drinks a bottle of whisky in one shot.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Child of God is an adaptation of a 1973 Cormac McCarthy novel, directed by James Franco. It deals with some very disturbing themes and topics in a no-frills way. The main one is necrophilia; in more than one scene, the main character has sex with a dead woman, and he eventually begins killing more women for this purpose. There's also lots of shooting, killing, blood, fighting, and general rage and anger. Language is strong and frequent, with many uses of "f--k," "motherf----r," and other words. There's some sexual and non-sexual nudity: The character fondles a dead woman's breast, and his bottom is seen during the act of necrophilia. He's also shown defecating in the woods on camera, and he masturbates off camera. Characters are briefly seen smoking cigarettes and drinking whisky. The movie is hard to recommend, but also hard to dismiss.

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What's the story?

Based on a 1973 novel by Cormac McCarthy, CHILD OF GOD concerns Lester Ballard (Scott Haze), an unhinged, unstable young man -- a "child of God much like yourself perhaps" -- who's thrown out of his childhood home and takes to living in the woods. Armed with his rifle, for which he saved up and bought as a child, he hunts and steals to survive. Soon he desires companionship. He wins some giant stuffed animals at a carnival, but he craves a human touch. He comes across a dead man and woman in a car and decides to have sex with the woman's body. He keeps her in his shack, but when the shack burns and he loses her, he must start killing young lovers to keep up his new hobby.

Is it any good?

This is one of those cases in which "good" doesn't really apply. Director James Franco has by all accounts presented a faithful adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel, and its powerful themes come through clearly. Namely: It's possible to stray a long way into isolation, depravation, and outright evil, but we're all "children of God." On top of that, Haze has given a journeyman's performance in the lead role, howling and raging, and seemingly enduring superhuman loads of mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual anguish.

Yet the physical experience of watching this no-frills movie is difficult, dealing as it does with necrophilia on top of images of human filth, cold-blooded murder, and unbridled hatred and cruelty. To pan the movie based on discomfort would be wrong, but to recommend it to casual viewers, especially those who like other McCarthy adaptations (No Country for Old Men, The Road, etc.) would also be wrong. It's here if you're ready for it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Child of God's overall violence. Does it feel more intense than in other movies? How did the filmmakers accomplish this feeling?

  • What part of the film was the most disturbing to you? Do you think that was intentional? Who do you think this movie is intended to appeal to?

  • What do you think of the movie's theme, that the main character is a "child of God much like yourself perhaps." How are we like the main character? How could this character's fate have been changed?

Movie details

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Themes & Topics

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