Films like God Grew Tired of Us leave me awestruck -- and that's not just critical hyperbole talking. Watching these proud, brave Sudanese refugees struggle to survive first in Africa and then in America is an experience so far removed from my own that you're both fascinated and appalled that some individuals go through such grueling hardships.
Director Christopher Quinn (Tommy Walker is credited as a co-director) guides this lean but involving documentary about the Lost Boys of Sudan and their journey across thousands of miles of harsh African terrain to the shores of the United States, where far from everything they've ever known, three young men -- John, Panther and Daniel -- start over.
Narrated by Nicole Kidman, Quinn's film follows the three immigrants over the course of several years, watching as they mature into productive American citizens and engaging young men; to see their story unfold on screen is to watch something special blossoming -- it's all too easy in an era of glib soundbites to be jaded about "the American dream," but God Grew Tired of Us revels in the possibilities still offered by this country. It's a film sentimental for the core American values without being schmaltzy or maudlin.
Kidman's narration is sparing, which allows Quinn to let these remarkable refugees tell their own story. Uplifting and quietly devastating, God Grew Tired of Us is a film that cannot withstand overpraise; build it up too much and viewers may come to it expecting a life-changing experience. I'm not trying to downplay Quinn's film, but rather suggest that it's a work that is best watched fresh. It's easily one of the best documentaries I've seen this year.
Striking African vistas and bleak, drab American skyscrapers look equally sharp in this 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. A few segments in God Grew Tired of Us rely on archival footage, but the bulk of the film is newly shot and therefore looks mostly spectacular. Sharpness, color saturation and clarity are all top-notch.
Driven by dialogue and Nicole Kidman's narration, the Dolby Digital 5.1 track isn't given too many opportunities to shine, but director Quinn inserts a few sequences reliant on native chants and instruments that sound robust and vivid. None of the spoken segments are distorted or otherwise unintelligible; optional English and Spanish subtitles are included.
The supplementary material, while a little scarce, does a good job of further fleshing out this complex topic. Quinn sits for a commentary with the main trio of Lost Boys; it's an involving listen, peppered with fascinating insights from the Boys and recommended for fans of the film. The 15 minute, 33 second featurette "Finding the Lost Boys" explores the project's genesis a bit further with the film's theatrical trailer and trailers for Facing the Giants, The Second Chance, Who Killed the Electric Car?, Why We Fight, The Fog of War, Secrets of the Code, Offside, Are We Done Yet? and The Pursuit of Happyness rounding out the disc.
Uplifting and quietly devastating, God Grew Tired of Us is a film that cannot withstand overpraise; build it up too much and viewers may come to it expecting a life-changing experience. I'm not trying to downplay Christopher Quinn's film, but rather suggest that it's a work that is best watched fresh. It's easily one of the best documentaries I've seen this year. Highly recommended.