Ain’t Them Bodies Saints: What You Need To Know
Written and directed by David Lowery, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is as singular a film as you are likely to see all year. Part modern western, part love story gone wrong, the film is set in Texas County in the 1970s and tells the tale of an outlaw who escapes from prison to try to reunite with his wife, as well as the daughter he has never met. While the influence of films like Badlands and Bonnie and Clyde is pretty clear, unlike these Lowery focuses on the love story element rather than the heists and gunfights, making for an unusual film full of tense emotion.
The DVD & Blu-Ray are available exclusively in hmv stores from this week, going on general sale on Monday 10th February.
Who’s in it?
The film stars Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck as the two lovers, Ruth Guthrie and Bob Muldoon, also co-starring Ben Foster as Patrick Wheeler, the young deputy injured in the fateful shootout that sees Bob incarcerated. The film also features Keith Carradine as Skerrit, Ruth’s father figure and protector, as well as Nate Parker, who stars as Bob’s friend and confidant, Sweetie.
What’s the plot?
When Bob is arrested for his role in a shootout with the sheriff’s department that sees Patrick get injured, he has just learned that his wife Ruth is pregnant with his child. Bob writes a series of letters to Ruth from his cell, promising to escape and come and find them, before eventually following through on the first part of his promise by breaking out of the jail and avoiding capture with the rest of the escapees.
Bob’s escape puts the sheriff’s department on high alert, fully expecting him to return to their town, the prison evidently having read Bob’s letters and, presumably, shared them with the sheriff’s office.
Patrick, who is clearly harbouring feelings for Ruth, advises her to get out of town for a while, worried that news of Bob’s escape could draw other trouble makers to her house as they look for Bob and try to claim a share of his ill-gotten loot.
Ruth, however, is still very much in love with Bob, and while she feigns to Patrick and Skerrit that she has no intention of running away with Bob, in private she seems intent on doing exactly that.
Bob hides out with Sweetie while the sheriff’s go looking for him, while a gang of outlaws shows up in town looking for him. Skerrit warns them off, more out of concern for Ruth than Bob, and when Bob pays Skerritt a visit for himself, he too is warned to stay clear, but it isn’t long before Bob’s past starts to catch up with him.
Does it deliver?
While this is only Lowery’s sophomore effort, the film’s direction and storytelling are canny and subtle, although sometimes too subtle for its own good. At a little over 1 hr 30 mins, the running time is on the short side and you can’t help but feel there was room to play with in terms of explaining some of Bob’s back story a little more clearly. There’s no real indication of who the outlaws are, or indeed why exactly they are after Bob, and Skerritt’s relationship to both Bob and Ruth is another area that could use a little more clarity.
That aside, the film is beautifully shot and the combination of a none-too-insistent soundtrack and the film’s ‘golden hour’ cinematography give it a warm, homely feeling that enhances the emotional elements of the story. The performances are also pretty great, particularly from Rooney Mara, and it’s refreshing to see a western-style film that isn’t all 'Cowboys & Indians’ or just a rolling sequence of gunfights and fisticuffs. If you enjoyed films like Lawless or even The Notebook, this is well worth a look.
Check out the video below for a behind-the-scenes video featuring interviews with the cast...
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