Friday, August 23, 2013


The idea behind director David Lowery’s AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS is to make a film which feels like it fell out of the lyrics of an old folk ballad; the type you would sing around a campfire with a full moon overhead and coyotes howling in the distant dark. It is the type of ballad which tells a story of love vs. woe and life vs. death…designed to leave you with a sense of longing and fulfillment at the same time.
In 1970’s Texas, Bob (Casey Affleck) and his pregnant wife Ruth (Rooney Mara) are a husband-and-wife team of outlaws who are caught by the law. Bob goes to prison and breaks out four years later, and begins a dangerous trek across the country to see his wife and daughter. Meanwhile, Ruth is looked over by Bob’s father (Keith Carradine) and Officer Patrick, a policeman she once shot (Ben Foster).

The plot of SAINTS is very simple; one desperate man trying to get back to his family. Underneath that is a slight web of deception, as Ruth hides the fact from Patrick that she was the one who shot him. For all its simplicity, SAINTS works remarkably well because of how raw and real it all feels. The performances are tempered to the point where they feel like a hidden camera did all the work; nothing is overblown with drama or excessive scoring and unfolds naturally. The film unfolds slowly, letting characters be themselves and the narrative go at its own pace. There is a silent tension that tightens throughout SAINTS, one that you don’t even notice until it is on top of you.
Director David Lowery has crafted a beautiful looking film. It can be a certain thing that no studio-type lighting was used during shooting. Everything and everyone are lit with natural or conventional household lights; sunlight by dawn or dusk, streetlights and ambient glows from tiny lamps. It adds an incredible lushness and natural beauty to the film and it is difficult to take your eyes away from it starting with the stunning opening shot. The great state of Texas has never looked better as Lowery exploits every ounce of beauty out of the skies and countryside. His camera always composes shots as if they were in a painting trying to capture Americana, giving the film a classic and timeless feel.

Acting is top-notch. Casey Affleck plays the love-sick criminal perfectly; nailing a delicate balance between a good man inside who does bad stuff on the outside. Rooney Mara is beautiful and tragic all in one glance, and continues her reputation as a chameleon of an actress; seamlessly blending into her character and disappearing into the story. Ben Foster is a tad underused but his performance is fine, as is the supporting cast of Keith Carradine and Nate Parker.
The finale, like any good ballad, ends on a tragic note and may be disappointing to some audiences, but considering where the film was headed throughout; it makes sense and works for the story. AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS is a film about a lot of things; love, loyalty, friendship…and it paints them all beautifully with a tender yet visible touch on a magnificent canvas. This is the fine art of filmmaking on full display.


No comments:

Post a Comment

A few rules:
1. Personal attacks not tolerated.
2. Haters welcome, if you can justify it.
3. Swearing is goddamn OK.