In life, Roger Ebert's cancer may have silenced his speaking voice, but it never curtailed his capacity to engage in a vivid and vital critical conversation with his readers.
On Saturday, the beloved film critic's final review was published on his website—a critical swan song that arrives two days after his death following a long battle with cancer and serves as his final words to his legion of fervent followers.
The late critic reviewed Terrence Malick's To the Wonder, a meditative romance starring Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Javier Bardem and Rachel McAdams. Awarding the film three-and-a-half stars, Ebert described it as "dreamy and half-heard," noting that "essentially this could be a silent film—silent, except for its mostly melancholy music."
He praised the auteur for tackling the film's intertwined relationships "with deliberate beauty and painterly care," singling out the hypnotic vagaries of Malick's distinct directorial style while lauding the film's diaphanous narrative.
"There will be many who find To the Wonder elusive and too effervescent," he wrote, as he closed out his final review. "I understand that, and I think Terrence Malick does, too. But here he has attempted to reach more deeply than that: to reach beneath the surface, and find the soul in need."
But while Ebert's devotees will no doubt savor his final review, not everyone is eager to celebrate the critic's legacy.
Members of anti-gay religious group Westboro Baptist Church announced that they plan to picket the critic's scheduled funeral on Monday morning, lashing out at the critic for his past attacks on the church.
"God hates f-g enabler Roger Ebert," the group said in a statement posted online. "American entertainment industry publicity leech Roger Ebert took to Twitterverse to mock the faithful servants of God at Westboro Baptist Church," the statement added, claiming that the critic "sold his soul for some fame and fortune."
Ebert's funeral is scheduled to take place Monday morning at the Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, and it will be open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.