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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 Georgiamarker in the 1940s. His abusive father (Denis Leary) enlists in the army during World War II and disappears and David is left to take care of his mother (Diana Scarwid) with his Aunt Mae (Gena Rowlands) who is a singer. It was filmed in the state of Georgia, in the cities Atlantamarker, Crawfordvillemarker, and Madisonmarker.

The film was released in Francemarker in August 1995, the United Kingdommarker in October 1995, Australia in November 1995, and released in the United Statesmarker on March 1, 1996.


  • 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


On Rotten Tomatoes, 44% of critics gave the film positive reviews (based on 9 reviews).

The film was entered into the 1995 Cannes Film Festival. 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."
Judd Blaise of Allmovie gave the film 2 1/2 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." 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."

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. 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.

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."

The film was shown on two screens in the United States and grossed $78,072 in its theatrical release.


  1. The Neon Bible - Rotten Tomatoes. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2007-08-27
  3. The Neon Bible (1996). Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2007-08-27

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