Ain't Them Bodies Saints Movie Review
Sometimes a film doesn’t extend its full impact until well after it’s over. Such is the case with AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS, a picture that is rather simple in story with a fairly direct narrative but is overwhelmingly full of deeply complex emotions.
Young outlaw couple Bob (Casey Affleck) and Ruth (Rooney Mara) are deeply in love. But after an unspecified crime spree, the BONNIE AND CLYDE type team are cornered by Texas lawmen in a shootout that leaves one officer wounded and their partner in crime dead. Bob takes full responsibility, allowing Ruth and his unborn child to go free while he spends his time in prison. But jail can’t keep the two apart, as Bob vows to escape with the plan of reuniting with his wife and now four-year old daughter.
The initial setup all happens within the first ten minutes of the film and is a very succinct and moving experience to get AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS in its intended tone. From here the film slows down as we see the subtle developments of time and life altering the character’s wants and needs. Bob will stop at nothing to once again be with his true love, while Ruth now thinks only for what is best for her little girl. To complicate things further, the young officer who was initially shot in the shootout begins to attempt a very respectful courtship to Ruth and her daughter.
All the performances are career highlights. Casey Affleck may not have the astute directing talents of his brother yet but he has surpassed him in the acting category. Affleck transforms Bob into a sympathetic and tragic character. He may have done some bad things and continues to make wrong choices but his plight is understandable. Love is a powerful tool and the chemistry between Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck burn up the screen in a matter of minutes; a key factor to make the drama believable. Mara is able to project a sad soul without uttering a word. In fact, most of the dialogue is short and to the point creating an authentic simple Texas hills lifestyle that is bubbling with reserved emotion.
The performance and character that has unexpectedly lifted itself to the forefront in my mind and has surprisingly lasted the longest is Ben Foster as the injured lawman who Ruth originally shot but Bob took the blame for. His feelings for Ruth are honest and pure as he keeps himself just at arms length, never disrespecting their family dynamic and honoring the complicated love she may still have for the imprisoned father of her child. It’s refreshing to see emotions that are constantly contained internally without ever fulling being acted upon.
The beautiful cinematography by Bradford Young and the emotive score by Daniel Hart elevate the picture and performances to another height. With a Terrence Malick’s BADLANDS type of story coupled with a Terrence Malick’s THE TREE OF LIFE type of cinematography, relatively new director David Lowery borrows from someone who isn’t borrowed from nearly enough. While I may see the influence of two top notch films from the same director, Lowery makes the unsuspectingly powerful film his own and I look forward to what his future holds.
AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS will probably be overlooked by the average theater goer, but is an insightful drama, examining love in a subtly beautiful and touching way that may not fully hit you until well after it’s over.