Harrowing, unpleasant, beautifully crafted, and unapologetically bleak, Czech director Václav Marhoul’s adaptation of Jerzy Kosiński’s novel, “The Painted Bird,” will divide audiences. It’s not a film for the faint of heart.

An odyssey, “The Painted Bird” is the story The Boy (Petr Kotlár), who lives in Eastern Europe in the waning months of WWII. To protect him from persecution, his parents send him to live with an older woman to act as his foster mother. Those best-laid plans lead to an epic nightmare when the old woman dies, and The Boy is on his own.

He wanders the countryside from village to village where he’s subjected to unbelievable cruelty. “The Painted Bird” is not a story that argues in favor of humanity’s inherent good nature.

The pain (physical, mental, sexual, emotional) is overwhelming, but while some viewers may not be able to take the horror, The Boy preservers. Over the movie’s two-hour forty-nine minute running time, very few good things happen. It’s quite possibly the darkest and most dour viewing experience I’ve endured since “Heaven’s Gate.” And even that epic disaster had moments of repose.

Read the rest of Jonathan’s review online and in print in the Times-Herald:

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