Friday, April 04, 2014

Ain't Them Bodies Saints




Written and directed by David Lowery, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is the story about a man who goes to prison for his wife after she had shot a police officer. Years later, he escapes prison in order to reunite with his wife while being pursued by the law and other forces. The film is an exploration into love as it plays to a couple who made a mistake as they deal with the forces who are after them. Starring Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Ben Foster, Rami Malek, Charles Baker, Nate Parker, and Keith Carradine. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is a chilling yet evocative film from David Lowery.

Set in Texas, it’s a film where a man tries to return to his wife and the daughter he never met as he escapes prison. Serving time for wounding a police officer and other offenses though he took the blame for shooting the officer as his wife was pregnant at the time. Yet, it’s a story where Bob Muldoon (Casey Affleck) is eager to see Ruth Guthrie (Rooney Mara) and their daughter Sylvie (Kennadie and Jacklynn Smith) who is about to turn four as he would get warnings from an old friend in Skerritt (Keith Carradine) to not see Ruth. Though Bob would trek around different states to reach Texas and see Ruth as he knows there’s a price on his head.

David Lowery’s screenplay doesn’t really go for plot but it’s more about a man wanting to redeem himself and be there for his wife. Yet, the officer his wife shot in Patrick Wheeler (Ben Foster) checks on Ruth as he would befriend her and her daughter while he goes on the search for Bob. Unlike the intentions of the law and some bounty hunters that tried to give threaten Skerritt, Patrick has very different intentions to meet Bob. Much of the script involves a lot of letter-writing from Bob to Ruth in his attempts to maintain contact with her where Ruth would eventually receive the letters but she’s more concerned with her daughter and to live a good life. Bob’s impending return only causes a lot of grief and some regret for her actions as she has a hard time meeting Patrick as she is unaware of Patrick’s real intentions.

Lowery’s direction is truly mesmerizing as it recalls a lot of the visual language of Terrence Malick. Much of it involves a lot of images that play into a dream-like tone as well as shooting on locations around the hills of Texas as there is no real definition of when the film takes place. Lowery’s compositions in its use of wide-shots, medium shots, and close-ups has this loose yet enchanting quality that makes the film very engaging while playing up to the sense of naturalism that on display. Lowery also maintains that air of suspense in not just the sense of what would happen if Bob gets caught but who will catch him as well as what would happen if he does finally reach Ruth. It adds to that sense of what might happen or what might not happen as well as Patrick’s growing attachment towards Ruth and his intentions into meeting Bob. Overall, Lowery crafts a very gripping yet somber film about a man trying to come home to his family.

Cinematographer Bradford Young does brilliant work with the film‘s very understated yet gorgeous cinematography from the use of low-key lights for the interior and exterior scenes at night while playing to the use of natural lighting for many of its exteriors including one key scene at night. Editors Craig McKay and Jane Rizzo do amazing work with the editing with its use of dissolves and jump-cuts to create a sense of style in some of the narration when Bob is writing a letter to Ruth as well as some intense cuts for some of its suspenseful moments. Production designer Jane Healey and set decorator Adam Willis do nice work with the look of the house that Ruth lives in with Sylvie as well as the antiques shop that Skerritt runs.

Costume designer Malgosia Turzanska does terrific work with the costumes where it plays to a certain period in time but also has a realness that makes it much more ambiguous. Sound designer Kent Sparling does fantastic work with the sound from the way some of the voice-overs are presented to some of the moments in the film‘s locations. The film’s music by Daniel Hart does incredible work with the film’s music as it is largely based on string instruments ranging from folk to country with some orchestral string flourishes as it plays to the suspense and drama as it’s one of the film’s major highlights.

The casting by Vicky Boone and Avy Kaufman is superb as it includes some notable small roles from Rami Malek as a driver that Bob meets, Nate Parker as an old friend of Bob whom he lets crash in his place, Charles Baker as a brooding bounty hunter, and in the role of Sylvie, Kennadie and Jacklynn Smith as they do wonderful work in playing the young girl. Keith Carradine is excellent as the old town leader Skerritt who watches over Ruth while warning Bob not to go see her. Ben Foster is amazing as Patrick Wheeler as the man who got shot by Ruth four years earlier as he goes on the search to find Bob while looking out for Ruth and befriend her.

Rooney Mara is brilliant as Ruth Guthrie as a young woman who committed a sin in shooting Patrick as she tries to deal with what Bob has done for her while wondering if him returning would be good for her and their daughter. Finally, there’s Casey Affleck in a great performance as Bob Muldoon as this man eager to get back to his wife no matter what the cost is as it’s an entrancing yet somber performance of a man just wanting to come home and see the family he lost.

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is a remarkable from David Lowery. Featuring tremendous performances from Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, and Ben Foster, it’s a film that is a smart and compelling crime-drama that doesn’t play by the rules while focusing on its characters and themes of redemption. In the end, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is a phenomenal film from David Lowery.

© thevoid99 2014

6 comments:

Fisti said...

I loved this movie, especially the performances from Affleck and Foster! Such an inspired debut, and MY GOD is it beautiful. Nice review.

thevoid99 said...

Thank you. I enjoyed it as I hope to see more from David Lowery.

Brittani Burnham said...

I loved this one too. Foster was such a stand out for me, and I was really torn between wanting Ruth to go to him and being impressed with her loyalty to her husband. Just a great film overall.

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-That was one of the things in the film that worked. Especially as Foster's character was really a nice guy who just wanted to help. I could understand Ruth wanting to be loyal to her husband but that sense of danger of him coming home still looms as Foster's character is someone that might be a suitable replacement.

ruth said...

I'm not the biggest fan of Rooney Mara, I find her cold and uninteresting. But I do like Casey Affleck and Ben Foster so might give this a rent. Great review!

thevoid99 said...

@ruth-I hope you enjoy it as it's a really good film about trouble and crime as it's a really beautiful film.