God’s Lonely Man

Director: Francis von Zerneck
Screenwriters: Francis von Zerneck

Institute History

  • 1996 Sundance Film Festival


God’s Lonely Man is a remarkable debut film from director Francis von Zerneck from any number of perspectives. It is an absolutely riveting narrative that examines the plight of a young man who is markedly asocial and marginalized. Drug addicted, paranoid, nearly incapable of working, Ernest is, to say the least, a lonely, destructive individual. But he’s more than just someone who doesn’t fit in, and the film’s portrayal of his obsessions, his inadequacies and delusions, and his failures—both as a human being and in terms of his painfully teetering sanity—makes God’s Lonely Man one of the most compelling psychological studies put on film this year.

However, von Zerneck ‘s work rarely operates on just one level. The richness of his filmmaking and the depth of his emotional reach reveal a complexity and intelligence that are striking and impressive. This is a tale of existential madness and the search for sanity set in Los Angeles in the 1990s that is impossible not to compare to Travis Bickle and Taxi Driver. When Ernest tries to clean himself up after meeting a fourteen-year-old girl in a rehab program, he eventually turns into an avenging angel, and the film’s subtext, an exploration of pornography at the vilest possible levels, leads to the finale and subsequent catharsis. Featuring searingly authentic performances by Michael Wyle and Heather McComb, God’s Lonely Man is not merely another darkly themed portrait of madness and violence. It is powerful filmmaking with strongly drawn characters and stimulating, serious storytelling.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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