Director: David Lowery
Cast: Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Keith Caradine, Nate Parker
105min US Drama
What separates David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints from other contemporary tales of romance, is that when we are first introduced to our protagonists, we see them bickering, setting the precedent for the rest of this memorable Texan drama. Though hopelessly romanticised in its approach this is by no means a ‘Disney’ fairytale. Beneath the surface lies a pragmatic and bittersweet drama of a husband and wife desperately hoping to be reunited.
When Bob Muldoon (Casey Affleck) lands himself a lengthy prison sentence, having taken the fall for his wife Ruth’s (Rooney Mara) impetuous shooting of a police officer, he manages to break out of jail, eagerly hoping to be reunited with his wife and the daughter she gave birth to during his incarceration. However in the meantime, Ruth has struck up a strong relationship with the officer himself, Patrick Wheeler (Ben Foster), who is blissfully unaware that it was she who pulled the trigger, as both nervously await the impending return of the feared outlaw.
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is not your conventional love story, as the only time we truly see Bob and Ruth together they seem somewhat uneasy in each other’s company. Considering the entire film is built around these romantic notions and the foundations of their marriage, it’s a brave move to depict it so truthfully. To an extent, such an honest portrayal actually allows for the viewer to invest even more into their relationship, as we genuinely believe in it. However, Lowery can be accused of not presenting enough back story for our leads, as the jailbreak occurs too swiftly into proceedings, and because of this we don’t really get a sense for either of their personalities beforehand, which makes it difficult to then root for their cause as a result.
Meanwhile the crime itself is understated somewhat, which, considering the entire film hinges on this very moment, appears a strange move to have made for the filmmaker. But despite the lack of context provided, Lowery is evidently attempting to portray how life changing moments such as this can occur in the most unexpected of ways, and take us by surprise. Whilst appreciating the realism, the scene itself doesn’t feel like it is given quite enough substance or detail to help settle us into the story.
There is a gentle atmosphere prevalent in Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, enhanced by the A Cappella score, where mere clapping makes up much of the film’s soundtrack. However the clapping can also create a tense, foreboding ambience on occasion, as it speeds up dramatically to suit the nature of the scene at hand. Meditative and slow-burning in its approach, there is a pensive tone to this production, and though telling a simplistic tale, you never once question the significance or conviction of the narrative, despite so little actually happening for the most part. Unfortunately – and this is the case with many films of this type – Lowery can’t avoid unwanted bouts of tedium, but hey, we can’t all be perfect. STEFAN PAPE
OUT ON DVD FROM FEBRUARY 10TH 2014