Directed by: David Lowery
A couple of years ago I saw the trailer for ‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’. I remember thinking at the time “That looks good, I’m going to see that”. I never did. This often happens. As an avid trailer watcher I tend to make a mental watch list, but due to my forgetfulness I often can’t recall what is on that list. Movies are missed. Good movies.
The trailer looked gorgeous. A bit Malick like. It looked like a film destined for awards. Aside from a couple of Sundance back slaps ‘Aint Them Bodies Saints’ went under the radar. People seemed to forget about it come Oscar season.
‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’ is held together by a trio of talented young(ish) actors. Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara and Ben Foster. Affleck plays small time criminal Bob Muldoon, Mara the Bonnie to Affleck’s Clyde, she plays Ruth Guthrie and Foster is police officer Patrick Wheeler. The three do nothing more than remind us that they can act. They perform solidly, but was this a movie that needed power and panache?
At the beginning of the film we see a young couple in love. Bob and Ruth are separated when Bob is imprisoned, but the possibility of a reunion occurs four or five years later when Bob escapes from prison. As Bob gets closer to returning to his home town, Patrick begins to move in on Ruth. He becomes a confidant of sorts. Bob slowly moves homeward, with the help of old friends but begins to find that the path to Ruth is blocked. He’s also unknowingly being tracked by bounty hunters.
‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’ is a mournful drama, it is a film about loss. Bob loses his wife, and his daughter when he is incarcerated, Ruth loses her husband, Skerrit (played by Keith Carradine) loses his son, who dies in the shootout which sees Bob go to prison. Then there is even more loss at the end of the movie. Even the bounty hunters in the film lose their target. There are few smiles in the movie, and the only light comes from the majestic sun kissed scenery.
Director David Lowery shows great care and restraint in his direction. The film looks glorious, but the pacing struggles to capture the scenic magnificence and fully utilize the supremely talented cast. Essentially ‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’ is a sad ballad of a movie, the kind of folk tale befitting of a bohemian singer songwriter with a Southern drawl.