Ain't Them Bodies Saints review

Writer-director Lowery's drama has been likened to the work of Terrence Malick, and Ain't Them Bodies Saints does indeed share traits of the Badlands helmer's oeuvre – golden hued cinematography, bucolic Texas atmosphere, muted and solemn performances. Not least from Affleck as escaped convict Bob. After four years in prison he is steadfastly determined to return home and reclaim his wife Ruth (Mara) and the young daughter whom he has never seen due to his jailing for the shooting of a police officer.

Affleck's low-key take on the role is one of distance. He's convincing, certainly, but he doesn't draw you in to the character. One never becomes fully invested in his plight. Mara is rather more successful. As a single mother with the protection of her child her first priority, she is very effective at registering the silent torment engulfing her. It was she who fired the shot that maimed cop Foster during the couple's shooting spree. When she says to him that she hasn't slept in four years one can fully believe her. She's a remarkably gifted actress – delicate and subtle in evoking her character's buttoned up troubles. There's a lovely performance too from Carradine as her neighbour and benefactor. After his career highpoints of working for Altman in the '70s and Alan Rudolph in the '80s he went off the radar somewhat. It's great to see him in a role fully worthy of his talents – he provides an easy-going gravitas that bolsters the tale greatly.

Lowery's glacially paced narrative unfolds in slow and tedious fashion. Twenty minutes before the end it virtually comes to a standstill as too many meaningful glances and long pauses are depicted, before picking up for a downbeat finish. It does indeed remind one of a '70s movie with its unhurried air and personal, serious attitude. There's no fire to the proceedings though – everything is too laid back and somnambulant to really make one care and one never truly gets a sense of brooding menace. That's not to say it isn't effective - many film critics love it. But your average moviegoing punter might well come out of it feeling nonplussed and dissatisfied.

Ain't Them Bodies Saints at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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