List Film

Critically acclaimed US indie Ballast reaches UK (3 stars)

Powerful, semi-improvised performances from non-professional cast

comments
Critically acclaimed US indie Ballast reaches UK

96min

The critically acclaimed Ballast, which has taken several years to reach British shores, is a rarity: it’s a US indie, which warrants being labelled as a bona fide art film. Clearly influenced by the works of Robert Bresson and the Dardenne Brothers, this austere debut feature from writer-director Lance Hammer unfolds in a poverty-stricken and desolate stretch of the Mississippi Delta. Through a series of elliptical scenes, we gradually piece together how a suicide through an overdose impacts upon three members of an African-American family. There’s the dead man’s twin brother Lawrence (Michael J Smith), who’s rendered practically mute by grief. And there’s his aggrieved former wife Marlee (Tarra Riggs), and their wayward 12-year-old son James (Jim Myron Ross), who is already involved with local drug dealers.

Eschewing a musical score, and using dialogue sparingly, Hammer elicits powerful, semi-improvised performances from his non-professional cast. Yet what particularly impresses about Ballast is the way that its handheld 35mm images (photographed by British cinematographer Lol Crawley) and its precise sound design combine to convey the experiences and emotions of its isolated characters, who movingly earn themselves the possibility of redemption.

Selected release, Fri 18 Mar.

Ballast

  • 3 stars
  • 2008
  • US
  • 15
  • Directed by: Lance Hammer
  • Written by: Lance Hammer
  • Cast: Michael J Smith Sr, Jim Myron Ross, Tarra Riggs, Johnny McPhail

Clearly influenced by the films of Robert Bresson and the Dardenne Brothers, this debut feature from writer/director Hammer examines the impact of a suicide on three members of an African-American family. Beautifully shot, and featuring powerful, semi-improvised performances from a non-professional cast.

Elsewhere on the web

Comments

Post a comment