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USA 2013
Directed by
David Lowery
96 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
3.5 stars

Ain't Them Bodies Saints

Synopsis: Bob (Casey Affleck) and Ruth (Rooney Mara) are outlaw lovers who find themselves separated after a shootout with the police. Bob takes the fall and goes to prison while Ruth, pregnant with their child, promises to wait for him. Years later Bob escapes in order to reunite with Ruth but things have changed

Do you like Terrence Malick? David Lowery certainly does. The first third of this strangely engaging film had me groaning at the overabundance of lens flares over dappled Texan hills, voice-over and various other traits that have come to mark a Malick film. I seriously considered walking out. It was boring me and there are few things worse in cinema than sitting through an over-extended love letter to someone else’s film-making signature when it adds nothing to the experience. But thankfully the imitativeness fades away gracefully, only re-emerging occasionally and in a far less obtrusive manner. And that’s when the story is allowed to breathe. It’s an interesting one too, exploring the complexities of a deep love that is not naïve anymore.

Bob has yet to reckon with being a parent but Ruth has already discovered how being responsible for a child alters your perspective on things. Bob is still the passionate hothead but Ruth is well aware of the consequences of their actions and the impacts it will have on their life, and finding the way to communicate this safely to a fugitive is one of the more complex and interesting interactions in the film.

The small-town criminal setting is also deftly handled, with Keith Carradine as Skerritt, the local crime boss, quietly lording it over everyone. He’s a central figure in the drama, both a father figure and a threat. There’s an underdeveloped plot strand involving Skerritt’s son, but enough is communicated in order for everything make sense. I think the issue for me was that the son only featured early in the film, when I was more distracted by the affectations and unwilling to pay too much attention. That also cost me what proves to be a fairly important bit of plot tension, as the reason Bob goes to prison is that Ruth shoots a cop and he takes the blame for it. I didn’t twig that the cop had survived and that Ben Foster’s character of Patrick was that man. I really wish I’d paid attention, because complicating the narrative is the fact that Patrick is in love with Ruth. Knowing that she was the one who shot him would have made for a very different experience for me even though I enjoyed that aspect of the story.

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is a good film after it shakes off the stylistic mannerisms and starts to get into the meat of the story. The performances are solid all around and the setting is really interesting. I found it difficult to get into but once there I was glad I’d done so.




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