Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Ain't Them Bodies Saints

A gorgeously shot film about criminal lovers that's also a homage to ’70s-style cinema of romantic outlaws.

Aug 14, 2013

-By Erica Abeel


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1382678-Aint_Them_Saints_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Already honored with a slot in Critics Week at Cannes, Ain't Them Bodies Saints fires into orbit director David Lowery, a bold new filmmaking talent. An elegiac mini-western set in Texas hill country in the early ’70s, Bodies reflects an array of influences, including Terrence Malick's penchant for sepia-colored countryside shot during the magic hour; ’70s outlaw films such as Robert Altman's McCabe and Mrs. Miller; the dissonant score of Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood; even fiction by Cormac McCarthy and Marilyn Robinson. Yet in this third feature (following two small indies), Lowery weaves multiple inspirations into his own magical vision. And though the plot is wafer-thin, Bodies is less about story than mood and visual poetry, playing like a folk ballad about criminal lovers.

Bob Muldoon (Casey Affleck) and Ruth Guthrie (Rooney Mara) are crazy-in-love young outlaws on an extended crime spree. They're finally nabbed by lawmen after a shootout in the Texas hills; although Ruth wounds the Sheriff (Ben Foster), Bob takes the rap for her. Four years later, he escapes from prison and sets forth to find Ruth and their daughter, born during his incarceration. In the interim, Ruth is protected by and settled in her own house by the fatherly Skerritt (Keith Carradine), a character whose motives, in the way of this film, remain mysterious. While never fully renouncing her bond with Bob, Ruth turns toward the possibilities of a new life offered by the Sheriff. At bottom, the film's a triangle, but one that saturates the dramatic space with an aching sense of loss.

At the core is Rooney Mara's Ruth, uneasily suspended between her past with Bob and her responsibilities as the mother of a little girl (Kennadie and Jacklynn Smith). Her outlaw lover, lost in his own myth, naively expects he can make a new life with Ruth and their child—but has she moved beyond her wild-child self? While all the casting is inspired, Mara delivers a career best in conveying the dueling notions of romance and responsibility. In her reined-in performance her conflict is never articulated, but embodied by gaze, hesitation, indirection. Bradford Young, the richly gifted DP, shoots Mara's pale, angular features like a hill-country Madonna.

The ante is upped with Foster's Sheriff's growing fascination with Ruth. Here, too, Lowery refreshes a tired film trope—lawman falls for the person who almost offed him—by making the Sheriff a gentlemanly introvert, unwilling to press on Ruth what she may be reluctant to accept. (Lowery claims the shy, romantic Sheriff is his surrogate.) As always, Foster invests his character with intriguing depths, again confirming he's one of our most compelling actors. Though it's never clear where Carradine's character fits in the script, he's the most handsome presence onscreen, all chiseled features and gravitas.

Affleck is a distinctive actor who's become almost typecast as an alienated soul from the lunatic fringe with homicide on his mind. In recent films he has killed Brad Pitt's Jesse James and ravaged the countryside as a psychotic sheriff. Perhaps Affleck's best work to date, his Bob Muldoon is a haunting throwback, slave to a vision ploughed under by changing times. The film must be seen—and heard—for Affleck's voice alone, a twangy, grainy drawl high up in the throat that's more in monologue with himself than directed to the world outside him. The portrayal perfectly meshes an actor with a director's vision. The title, you'll want to know, is taken from a country-western song, but on the soundtrack Lowery uses original music by talented Daniel Hart, a dissonant aural tapestry of jagged strings and hand claps that cleverly plays against the film's romantic heart.


Film Review: Ain't Them Bodies Saints

A gorgeously shot film about criminal lovers that's also a homage to ’70s-style cinema of romantic outlaws.

Aug 14, 2013

-By Erica Abeel


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1382678-Aint_Them_Saints_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Already honored with a slot in Critics Week at Cannes, Ain't Them Bodies Saints fires into orbit director David Lowery, a bold new filmmaking talent. An elegiac mini-western set in Texas hill country in the early ’70s, Bodies reflects an array of influences, including Terrence Malick's penchant for sepia-colored countryside shot during the magic hour; ’70s outlaw films such as Robert Altman's McCabe and Mrs. Miller; the dissonant score of Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood; even fiction by Cormac McCarthy and Marilyn Robinson. Yet in this third feature (following two small indies), Lowery weaves multiple inspirations into his own magical vision. And though the plot is wafer-thin, Bodies is less about story than mood and visual poetry, playing like a folk ballad about criminal lovers.

Bob Muldoon (Casey Affleck) and Ruth Guthrie (Rooney Mara) are crazy-in-love young outlaws on an extended crime spree. They're finally nabbed by lawmen after a shootout in the Texas hills; although Ruth wounds the Sheriff (Ben Foster), Bob takes the rap for her. Four years later, he escapes from prison and sets forth to find Ruth and their daughter, born during his incarceration. In the interim, Ruth is protected by and settled in her own house by the fatherly Skerritt (Keith Carradine), a character whose motives, in the way of this film, remain mysterious. While never fully renouncing her bond with Bob, Ruth turns toward the possibilities of a new life offered by the Sheriff. At bottom, the film's a triangle, but one that saturates the dramatic space with an aching sense of loss.

At the core is Rooney Mara's Ruth, uneasily suspended between her past with Bob and her responsibilities as the mother of a little girl (Kennadie and Jacklynn Smith). Her outlaw lover, lost in his own myth, naively expects he can make a new life with Ruth and their child—but has she moved beyond her wild-child self? While all the casting is inspired, Mara delivers a career best in conveying the dueling notions of romance and responsibility. In her reined-in performance her conflict is never articulated, but embodied by gaze, hesitation, indirection. Bradford Young, the richly gifted DP, shoots Mara's pale, angular features like a hill-country Madonna.

The ante is upped with Foster's Sheriff's growing fascination with Ruth. Here, too, Lowery refreshes a tired film trope—lawman falls for the person who almost offed him—by making the Sheriff a gentlemanly introvert, unwilling to press on Ruth what she may be reluctant to accept. (Lowery claims the shy, romantic Sheriff is his surrogate.) As always, Foster invests his character with intriguing depths, again confirming he's one of our most compelling actors. Though it's never clear where Carradine's character fits in the script, he's the most handsome presence onscreen, all chiseled features and gravitas.

Affleck is a distinctive actor who's become almost typecast as an alienated soul from the lunatic fringe with homicide on his mind. In recent films he has killed Brad Pitt's Jesse James and ravaged the countryside as a psychotic sheriff. Perhaps Affleck's best work to date, his Bob Muldoon is a haunting throwback, slave to a vision ploughed under by changing times. The film must be seen—and heard—for Affleck's voice alone, a twangy, grainy drawl high up in the throat that's more in monologue with himself than directed to the world outside him. The portrayal perfectly meshes an actor with a director's vision. The title, you'll want to know, is taken from a country-western song, but on the soundtrack Lowery uses original music by talented Daniel Hart, a dissonant aural tapestry of jagged strings and hand claps that cleverly plays against the film's romantic heart.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Time is Illmatic
Film Review: Nas: Time is Illmatic

Intended as the portrait of an artist as a young man, the music doc Time Is Illmatic is actually more interesting as a look back at the place and time that created him. More »

The Decent One
Film Review: The Decent One

A behind-the-scenes portrait of one of the Nazi regime’s most fearsome executioners. More »

The Two Faces of January
Film Review: The Two Faces of January

Good pulp yarn about three disparate Americans—an aging con man, his lovely young wife, and an impetuous tour guide—who meet their destiny among the ancient ruins of Greece. More »

Tazza 2: The Hidden Card
Film Review: Tazza 2: The Hidden Card

Wildly entertaining and kaleidoscopic, this sequel to a Korean hit is strictly aces. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

The Equalizer Review
Film Review: The Equalizer

Former agent is drawn out of hiding to fight a Russian gang in a reboot of the 1980s television series. More »

The Boxtrolls
Film Review: The Boxtrolls

Another amazingly meticulous and stylish stop-motion tale from the Laika studio, this time focusing on a boy adopted by a population of maligned underground trolls. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here