On the surface, the plot of The King is pretty standard stuff. A young man just ending his service in the navy seeks out his biological father. The father over the years has become a born-again Christian and is living a bucolic family life as a popular minister at a church in Texas. When the son introduces himself, his father rejects him and tells him to go away and not return - not exactly the "Christian" thing to do. From that point on, there develops a dark, sobering tale of revenge? desperation? love? redemption? realization? The events in this film are fascinating looks at the lives of five intriguing characters.
The reverend's family appears to be perfect. His son - deftly played by Paul Dano - is a born-again preacher's ideal. He is a senior in high school getting ready to go off to a Christian college to become a minister. He is the lead singer in a Christian rock band and leads a campaign to have creationism supplement and eventually replace evolutionism in the school's science curriculum. After his quest for the change in the curriculum is rejected by the school board, he sings a song in the service with a less-than-Christian message. He father rebukes him. He then disappears. His disappearance is a mystery to his friends and family but not to the viewer of the film.
The reverend's wife is a somber, unforgiving woman who tells her husband that she wants nothing to do with his illegitimate son. Her life really begins to unravel when her son shows up missing and her husband - in his guilt - embraces his other son.
The reverend's daughter is an impressionable girl of sixteen who enters into an affair with this new bad boy in town not knowing that he is her half-brother.
William Hurt plays the reverend in his usual understated but very effective style. You think at the beginning of the film that you are going to hate this man but find that he is probably the one of the five with the least guile. His religious beliefs have truly made him a better man and what appears to be the bombastic rhetoric that he spouts really represents his genuine thoughts and feelings.
Gael García Bernal - the very popular Mexican movie star - plays the illegitimate son. He presents us with a character about whom we continue to wonder long after the last frame of the film. Bernal has a wonderful capacity to be so believably innocent and then so maliciously evil. This dichotomy of personality brought to us by expert acting makes this film so darkly enthralling.
To say more about what actually happens when these five characters collide would be a disservice to anyone thinking of viewing the film. I promise that The King will hold your interest and thoughts both during and after viewing.