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As I Lay Dying Review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 3.0

    out of 100

    Mixed or average reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 40

    out of 100

    Village Voice Chris Packham

    Franco adapted a book that often reads like joyless homework into a film that feels the same way.

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  • 60

    out of 100

    Variety Leslie Felperin

    Franco offers up a competently acted, technically adequate Cliff Notes take on Faulkner’s narratively refracted tale of dirt-poor Mississippi folk in mourning.

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  • 70

    out of 100

    The New York Times A.O. Scott

    In rushing in where wise men might fear to tread, Mr. Franco has accomplished something serious and worthwhile. His As I Lay Dying is certainly ambitious, but it is also admirably modest.

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  • 70

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter Todd McCarthy

    Franco, employing diverse cinematic techniques from split screen (mostly early on) to direct-to-camera address, makes the Bundrens’ time of trial more immediately coherent than it is on the page without disrespecting Faulkner’s oblique style.

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Iffy for 16+

Franco's dark, strange, but appealing Faulkner adaptation.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that As I Lay Dying is an adaptation of William Faulkner's great 1930 novel, written, directed by, and starring James Franco. It contains some disturbing violence, notably a broken leg that turns gangrenous and must be sawed off (a little blood is shown). And of course, death is at the center of the story. There's also a disturbing scene in which an abortion doctor has sex with a patient as "payment" for her services. A fully naked man is shown for a second or two, and there's another, gentler sex scene. Language is light, and includes "son of a bitch." There's one scene of drinking, but mainly as a painkiller during the broken leg sequence. High school students struggling with the book may not find much help here, but older, hardcore Faulkner fans may appreciate it.

  • Families can talk about the movie's violence. How do the darker and more disturbing moments help to underline or illustrate the family's hardship? Could the movie have been made without them?
  •  How does this movie compare to the book? How does it compare to other literary adaptations you may have seen? Does the movie make you want to read the book, if you haven't already? 
  • How does this movie compare with James Franco's other films? What could he be trying to say by choosing to make a movie from this particular book? 

The good stuff
  • message true1

    Messages: The story's main concern is the interaction between family members surrounding the death and burial of mother and wife Addie. Many of them have their own opinions of how things should go, and some of them try to act on these opinions, while others disagree. The ending is ambiguous as to just how much the family will be able to stick together after their trials and tribulations.

  • rolemodels true1

    Role models: Characters are not the strong suit here. These folks are seen at a bad time of life when they are all severely tested, and none of them are on their best behavior. However, offscreen, James Franco might be admired for his prodigious work ethic. Aside from his prolific acting career, he has already directed several features and shorts, written screenplays, published books, and even teaches courses in filmmaking.

What to watch for
  • violence false4

    Violence: A character breaks his leg, and a doctor tries to set the bone while he screams in pain. Later, the leg is shown to be gangrenous and a doctor begins to saw it off. Some blood is shown. The matriarch of the family dies, although she continues to "narrate" the story. The family escapes from a barn fire; one man tries to rescue the coffin and catches on fire himself. A character is arrested, and two men jump on him and wrestle him into submission. Also, the family argues a great deal. In a disturbing scene, a doctor has intercourse with a woman in "payment" for an abortion; we see some rough thrusting, but no nudity.

  • sex false4

    Sex: A man is shown full-frontally naked for just a second or two (not James Franco). A woman is seen having sex in the tall grass, with nothing sensitive shown.

  • language false2

    Language: Fairly infrequent language includes "bastard," "hell," "son of a bitch," "damn." Characters also reference God, but in a reverent way.

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false2

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: A character is given whisky to drink as a painkiller before a doctor sets his broken leg. The doctor also takes a swig.