Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Mind haunting mood-piece by David Lowery is more than the usual outlaw story
On the back of his debut with festival favourite St Nick, writer/director David Lowery creates another intense drama with Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, a fictional slice of Americana which creates a dreamlike atmosphere around a traditional story of love, crime and redemption.
Bob Muldoon (Casey Affleck) and Ruth Guthrie (Rooney Mara) are introduced against a sparsely described backdrop of rural Texas; only the cars and clothes give any sense of the early 1970s period. Their fragile relationship is threatened by the revelation of her pregnancy, and when the couple takes part in a robbery, they end up holed up in an abandoned homestead. Apprehended by the police after a violent shoot-out. Muldoon is jailed, but four years later escapes, and closes in on the remote location where Guthrie is nursing their daughter. Local sheriff Patrick Wheeler (Ben Foster) visits Guthrie, and demands that she informs on Muldoon’s movements to him, but her loyalties clearly lie elsewhere.
Aided by a deft score from Daniel Hart and some breathtaking photography by Bradford Young, Lowery paints a striking picture of young love in exile, fuelled by the opposition of the outside world. While it’s easy to spot the influence of Robert Altman and Terrence Malick, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints has an intense life of its own, with Mara and Affleck giving powerful performances as the lovers. And veteran actor Keith Carradine (The Long Riders) contributes a striking portrait of the conflicted father who raised Muldoon.
While some will be frustrated by the sparse, laconic tone of the piece, with most of the action off-screen and love-letters adding a gentle, personal dimension to the grimy feel, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is a thoughtful mood-piece that adds up to more than the usual outlaw story; it haunts the mind like the half-forgotten folk-song the title suggests.
Limited release from Fri 6 Sep.