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"Ain't Them Bodies Saints" And The Scenery Gorgeous Review

Bob Muldoon (a wild-eyed Casey Affleck) and Ruth Guthrie (Rooney Mara at her most haunting) are a couple of outlaws in love in 1970s Texas. When a heist goes awry and they find themselves in a standoff with the local police, Ruth panics and accidentally shoots a cop. Bob takes the blame and is sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, while Ruth is left pregnant with his baby and alone. As the daughter he’s never met approaches her fourth birthday, Bob escapes from prison and begins doggedly making his way back home, eyes blind to any other purpose in life other than seeing Ruth again. However, with the entire town on red alert for Bob’s arrival, it seems increasingly unlikely that the lovers will ever be reunited, and that if they are, somebody’s blood will end up being spilled.

Such is Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, a Western that relies on atmosphere more than action, on performance more than plot. Those looking for exciting action and dramatic standoffs would be better off looking elsewhere. Writer-director David Lowery has created a moody film that resembles a delicate, beautifully pasted-together collage of scenes about love, passion and patience. Not a lot actually happens; the audience and the characters alike both spend the majority of the ninety-minute running time waiting for things to happen instead. Yet the craftsmanship put into the film helps it keep your attention even if you’re more inclined to enjoy shoot ‘em ups than talk it outs.

The best thing about the film is the cinematography by Bradford Young. Every scene is lit beautifully and naturally, with golden hues and soft shadows that make everyone in the film appear to be moving through a haze. Shots linger on the bleak Texas countryside and on the raw faces of the characters. The haunting, folksy score by composer Daniel Hart further highlights the fragile, wavering atmosphere of this tiny Texas town in the wake of Bob’s escape and, one assumes, impending return. The performances are also strong, despite the characters not being terribly well fleshed-out; Lowery’s screenplay is sparse to the point of being somewhat lacking. It helps that the trio of lead actors are some of the most charismatic working today; they keep you engaged in the story even in those moments where it seems to drag as slowly as a hot summer day in the Texas sun. Particular praise must be given to Ben Foster, he of the numerous underrated supporting performances (3:10 to Yuma, The Mechanic), as Patrick Wheeler, the cop who Ruth accidentally shot on that fateful day. Patrick, of course, thinks that Bob is the one who shot him, and in his absence has developed quite tender feelings for Ruth and daughter Sylvie. Foster makes him the most likable character onscreen, forcing the audience to wonder if Ruth should reconsider waiting for her soul mate to return.

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is a lovely little movie that at its heart is about what we do for love and, for better or for worse, the repercussions of those actions. It isn’t the most exciting Western in the world, but what it lacks in excitement it makes up for in emotion.

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES

The Blu-ray release of Ain’t Them Bodies Saints comes with an abundance of bonus features, including a making-of documentary, deleted scenes, a music video, behind the scenes footage, teasers and trailers, and the director’s first feature, the similarly outlaw-centric St. Nick.

"Ain't Them Bodies Saints" is on sale December 17, 2013 and is rated R. Western. Written and directed by David Lowery. Starring Casey Affleck.

Jan
22
2014
Lee Jutton • Staff Writer

Lee attended NYU for Film & TV Production, but she now works mostly in PR. Her primary obsessions in life are Doctor Who, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Arsenal F.C. When not writing about things she's watched, she's running or kickboxing in preparation for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. 

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