The Neon Bible ★★½

1995 Cannes Film Festival (In Competition)

After a good while of failing to connect with The Neon Bible, despite being very similar in style to Davies’s wonderful previous films, it became more interesting to suss out why it wasn’t working than try to forge a bond. It seems too easy to chalk it up to him having no personal connection to the material, but there may be something to that. This is not the meticulously recreated past of The Long Day Closes but something considerably more sparse. While this gap-ridden approach might work for a distant memory piece, it doesn’t feel right for this story of a young man escaping his past. It should feel haunting and threatening, not sleepy and stilted. Some of the non-verbal moments (e.g. mother crying in church) are indelible, but for the most part the specificity of individual experience is conspicuously absent.