The Neon Bible (film)

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The Neon Bible
DVD cover of The Neon Bible.jpg
Directed byTerence Davies
Produced byElizabeth Karlsen
Nik Powell
Olivia Stewart
Victoria Westhead
Stephen Woolley
Screenplay byTerence Davies
Based onThe Neon Bible
by John Kennedy Toole
CinematographyMichael Coulter
Edited byCharles Rees
Distributed byStrand Releasing
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$78,072

The Neon Bible is a 1995 drama film written and directed by Terence Davies, based on the novel of the same name by John Kennedy Toole. The film is about a boy named David (Jacob Tierney) coming of age in Georgia in the 1940s. His abusive father (Denis Leary) enlists in the army during World War II and disappears, leaving David to take care of his mother (Diana Scarwid) with his Aunt Mae (Gena Rowlands), who is a singer. It was filmed in Atlanta, Crawfordville, and Madison, Georgia.

The film was released in France in August 1995, the United Kingdom in October 1995, Australia in November 1995, and released in the United States on 1 March 1996. It was a selection of the 1995 New York Film Festival.


  • Jacob Tierney as David, aged 15
  • Drake Bell as David, aged 10
  • Gena Rowlands as Mae Morgan
  • Diana Scarwid as Sarah
  • Denis Leary as Frank
  • Bob Hannah as George
  • Aaron Frisch as Bruce
  • Charles Franzen as Tannoy Voice
  • Leo Burmester as Bobbie Lee Taylor
  • Sherry Velvet as First Testifier
  • Stephanie Astalos-Jones as Second Testifier
  • Ian Shearer as Billy Sunday Thompson
  • Joan Glover as Flora
  • Jill Jane Clements as Woman
  • Tom Turbiville as Clyde
  • Sharon Blackwood as Schoolmistress
  • Peter McRobbie as Reverend Watkins
  • Ken Fight as Schoolmaster
  • Dana Seltzer (credited as Dana Atwood) as Jo Lynne
  • Virgil Graham Hopkins as Mr. Williams
  • Ducan Stewart as Boy in Drugstore
  • J.T. Alessi as Boy in Drugstore
  • Duncan Stewart as Head Boy
  • Frances Conroy as Miss Scover
  • Marcus Batton as School Boy


The film was entered into the 1995 Cannes Film Festival.[1] San Francisco Chronicle film critic Edward Guthmann said the film was poorly received when it premiered at Cannes, but called it "gorgeous" and "one of the year's most beautiful films." He said it was a rewarding film that requires a little faith from the viewer due to long, slow, "lingering shots that work as a kind of meditation." He described the revival meeting at night "like an Edward Hopper or Thomas Hart Benton painting come to life."[2] Judd Blaise of Allmovie gave the film 2½ out of 5 stars and said "Some viewers will likely be frustrated by the slow pace and elliptical style, though others may be transfixed by the often stunning photography and poetic approach."[3] The New York Times film critic Stephen Holden said one of the problems with the film was that it "may have succumbed to its own dreamy esthetic" by focusing on the same image too often, and that the end of the film "loses its balance."[4]

Stephen Brophy, a staff reporter for The Tech, said "Terence Davies' latest film looks as ravishing as Distant Voices, Still Lives, or The Long Day Closes but that the plot was weak and that the ending of the film was absurd.[5] San Francisco Examiner critic Barry Walters said the film was "unrelentingly downbeat" and that "it starts off dark and gets darker". He called it "one long crawl into an emotional abyss without catharsis" and said that the director Davies had created a nightmare.[6]

In an interview with Time Out Film, Terence Davies said "The Neon Bible doesn't work, and that's entirely my fault. The only thing I can say is that it's a transition work. And I couldn't have done The House of Mirth without it."[7]

Shown on three screens in the United States, the film grossed $78,072 in its theatrical release.[8]


  1. ^ "The Neon Bible". Festival de Cannes. Retrieved 5 September 2009.
  2. ^ Guthmann, Edward (10 July 1996). "'Neon Bible' Is One to Savor Slowly". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 27 August 2007.
  3. ^ Blaise, Judd. "The Neon Bible" (overview). Allmovie. Retrieved 27 August 2007.
  4. ^ Holden, Stephen (1 March 1996). "The Neon Bible". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 August 2007.
  5. ^ Brophy, Stephen (19 April 1996). "Strong acting can't help Neon Bible overcome weak plot". The Tech. Retrieved 27 August 2007.
  6. ^ Walters, Barry (10 July 1996). "Neon Bible' glows darkly". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved 27 August 2007.
  7. ^ "Trivia", IMDb.
  8. ^ The Neon Bible (1996). Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 27 August 2007

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