Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review: Ain't Them Bodies Saints

Release date: August 16, 2013
Running time: 105 minutes
Starring: Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster
Who to see it with: Someone looking for a complex story or fans of The Assassination of Jesse James


Writer / Directory David Lowrey has a lot of respect for his actors and his audience. In his new movie, Ain't Them Bodies Saints, he tells the story of a fugitive romance and the consequences our choices. It's refreshingly told with very little explanation or back story given. There are no overt sequences where characters say what happened, no explicit references to how people in the movie are related, and no unnecessary explanatory dialogues. Lowrey trusts the audience to piece together the backstory of the movie from the characters' onscreen actions, and it's a nice change from movies that spoon feed their audiences. That he is able to do this is a testament to Lowrey's writing; you have to be good at your craft to be able to subtly convey information without being overt. The writing is crisp and avoids any superfluous dialog; what the characters say is only what the audience needs to move the story along and drop hints of the past. There is no throw away dialog which means that there must be great acting to carry those scenes. Casey Affleck puts on his usual great performance--he is quickly becoming one of my favorite consistently good actors. Rooney Mara is great as a strong, but conflicted woman. Each character in this movie is complicated; no single individual is easy to read. They all have multiple motivations and their decision-making is never straight forward. 

The movie is set in Texas and the cinematographer definitely made the most out of it. The cinematography is beautiful, with serene Texas landscapes in many of the shots and a great use of lighting to highlight beauty and hint to the audience of some impending dread. Helping this along is some great background music. There are very few quiet scenes; the scenes without dialog are accompanied by some great atmospheric mood music. A strumming banjo, a guitar, a piano, some violins, a cello; all are used to set the mood of the film. 

Ain't Them Bodies Saints has a slow, complex story. Similar to The Assassination of Jesse James, the movie moves at a determined but plodding pace. Some viewers might be turned off by this but, although the story slows down at times, it doesn't feel like it stalls. It might not be a movie for everyone, but it is refreshing to see a director able to tell an interesting, complicated story with few Hollywood frills. This movie stands on solid writing, great performances, and an involved story that doesn't spoon feed its audience (and even leaves some holes unplugged). It's a refreshing, interesting movie that, while not for everyone, is an enjoyable experience. 

See it.

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