The Neon Bible
Dir. Terence Davies. 1995, 91 mins. 16mm. With Gena Rowlands, Drake Bell, Jacob Tierney, Denis Leary. Based on John Kennedy Toole’s celebrated Depression-era novel, The Neon Bible is Davies’s first American film, yet still fully of a piece with his nostalgia-suffused filmography. David is a young man growing up in a small Southern Bible Belt town in the 1940s. When his aunt Mae (Rowlands) a former club singer, comes to stay in the threadbare home he shares with his parents, she soon becomes his sole companion. This vibrant woman, with her theatrical past, bestows a previously unknown glamour and excitement to David’s world. The charismatic Gena Rowlands brings a perfectly calibrated star quality to Davies’s heartfelt film, coloring a young man’s everyday struggles with bright brushstrokes of hope and joy.