Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Ain't Them Bodies Saints

Directed by David Lowery.
2013. Rated R, 96 minutes.
Rooney Mara
Casey Affleck
Ben Foster
Nate Parker
Rami Malek
Keith Carradine
Charles Baker
Will Beinbrink
Annalee Jefferies

Ruth (Mara) and Bob (Affleck) are a modern day Bonnie and Clyde. They find themselves trapped in a house with one other guy who won't make it past this scene and engaged in a shootout with the law. Before going out in a hail of bullets, they decide to surrender. Since, Ruth is pregnant with their child, they agree that Bob will take all the blame. He goes off to jail and she starts living clean so she can raise their daughter. Fast-forward five years. Ruth and the child, now a little over four, have settled into a nice, quiet life. Every now and again, Bob's arresting officer Patrick (Foster) comes around to check on her. He seems to have taken a shine to her, but doesn't push the issue. The entire world is flipped upside down when news hits that Bob has escaped from prison. Thanks to the million and one love letters he wrote while incarcerated, there's no doubt in anyone's mind that he's going to try and reunite his family. The manhunt to keep that from happening ensues.

After opening with a burst of action, the movie settles into a languid pace. The idea is for us to see the growth in the relationship between Ruth and Patrick while reminding us she still loves Bob, thus creating an emotional dilemma. Unfortunately, the movie has serious problems on both fronts of its effort. On one hand, Patrick never really gets around to admitting the feelings that are apparent to us. He just keeps popping up on Ruth's doorstep and says very little. I get he's trying to maintain at least a modicum of professionalism, but at some point just doing his job feels like stalking. On the other hand, while Bob has very good reason for wanting to get back to Ruth, he's never presented as anything other than a bad guy. He feels like someone obsessed rather than thinking rationally. So now the poor girl has two stalkers, one with a badge, one without.

To combat these problems, the movie is atmospheric and its leading lady is incessantly contemplative. Everything is said in a somber tone, often while melancholy music scores the scene. Ain't Them Bodies Saints wants to be a deep, lyrical movie. It's got the lyrical part down pat, thanks to that marvelous pacing. It's slow, but as I hope I implied earlier, that's on purpose. We're not rushed from one thing to the next, but ushered there in a smooth, fluid manner. this is the biggest thing the movie has going for it.

If I'm being fair, then I'll have to give kudos to the cast, as well. Both Affleck and Foster play their roles well. Affleck, one of the more underrated actors, conveys his character's feelings without a showy moment. Foster gets a couple of those and brings his usual wide-eyed intensity. However, that might be part of the reason we're never as sympathetic toward Patrick as we should be. In the lead, Mara does what she can to save the material. Sadly, she has the same problem everyone else has. The material isn't that good. It's certainly not anywhere near as compelling as it thinks it is. Instead, it just barrels toward a conclusion that feels inevitable as soon as we understand what each our three main players want.


  1. Nice one Dell. I've been meaning to catch this as I thought it sounded great. However, I know what to expect now. I'll still watch it for Affleck and Foster, though.

    1. Honestly, I'd still say give it a watch. It is terrible. In fact, it's gotten lots of good reviews. To me, that means others are getting something out of it that I didn't. Maybe you'll be one of the ones that loves it. Thanks.

  2. This one fell off my radar a long time ago, but even with all the stated flaws, this review has got me interested again. I dig Foster and think young Aflac is, like you said, totally underrated.

    Great review!