Last Days in the Desert

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Last Days in the Desert Movie Poster Image
Thought-provoking drama wrestles with faith.
  • PG-13
  • 2016
  • 99 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

It's fine -- even honest -- to tussle with your beliefs and to be weakened by sadness, fear, and anger. But you must ultimately have faith and act from a place of kindness and generosity.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jesus is shown wrestling with devilish thoughts, but in an honest, forthright way. The family he visits is, at heart, a kind and generous one, even if they're hobbled by human frailty, anger, and despair.

Violence

A man moves to strangle another; a character accidentally falls off a cliff and is shown bloodied and eventually dying. Jesus is shown on the cross, head bleeding from the crown of thorns, a gash on his side. Afterward, the camera zooms onto his hands, with holes where the nails were.

Sex

A character kisses a woman platonically. A woman is shown naked from the waist up, her long hair the only coverage for her breasts. 

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Wine offered during a meal.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Last Days in the Desert is an atmospheric drama starring Ewan McGregor. It imagines the final stretch of Jesus' time in the desert. The film is thoughtful and at times disturbing (a man is shown dying after an accidental fall from a cliff, and viewers see Jesus' final minutes on the cross, including close-ups on the nail holes in his hands afterward), which might make it a difficult to watch for younger viewers. There's no swearing or sex, though there is a scene of a woman who's naked from the waist up; her hair covers her breasts. The film examines the importance of faith in the face of feeling unsure of your beliefs.

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What's the story?

For 40 days and 40 nights, Jesus (Ewan McGregor) stayed in the desert. There he grappled not just with himself but also with his demons, while struggling to make sense of his relationship with God, his father, and his destiny. He is alone for most of the time, until -- in this re-imagining of the oft-told Biblical tale -- he runs into a man (Ciaran Hinds), his ailing wife (Ayelet Zurer), and their restless son (Tye Sheridan), all of whom are seeking answers to their own big questions. 

Is it any good?

To tell a story that's been told so many times that it's as familiar as the audience's own breath in such a way as to leave viewers pondering, wondering, perhaps even speechless is to succeed. Writer-director Rodrigo Garcia manages such a feat with LAST DAYS IN THE DESERT. Set against an arid backdrop that's both stark and stunning, the film anchors the overwhelming massiveness of a subject like faith in a relatable story of a family on the brink of change: a mother is dying, a father is trying to come to terms with his impending loss, and a son mourns not just his mother but his inscrutable father -- as well as his future self, who longs to leave the desert for the city of Jerusalem.

At times, the dialogue sounds anachronistic, more A.D. than B.C., and it can be distracting. But strong performances and a compelling premise ultimately keep Last Days aloft.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Last Days in the Desert adds nuance and texture to the Biblical story of Jesus in the desert. Why do you think the filmmakers decided to work with this story? How do you think they decided what to include?

  • How does the movie portray Jesus? Is he perfect or flawed? Is he a role model?

  • How does Last Days in the Desert compare to other movies about the life of Jesus Christ?

Movie details

For kids who love dramass

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