Film Review: Mesmerizing, Romantic Power of ‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’

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CHICAGO – Is a film automatically flawed if we can see its influences? We don’t do it as quickly in music, in which it’s often incredibly easy to determine a new artist’s favorite bands as a kid. Authors that pull from a notable and recognizable literary history are often lauded for doing so. But critics and film goers are quick to slam a director if they can pick out his inspirations. Does the fact that David Lowery’s “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” feel so heavily inspired by Terrence Malick’s “Badlands” & “Days of Heaven” make it a lesser film? I don’t believe so. In fact, I think Lowery rises to the challenge of his mentor, making a film that doesn’t pale in comparison to the greats that influenced it but serves as a companion to them. When I saw “Saints” on a cold, early morning in Park City, I knew I was too tired to fully appreciate it, but it’s a film that truly grew on me on second viewing. It’s rich, mesmerizing, and remarkably technically accomplished, while also buoyed by three stellar central performances. Don’t miss this one.

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 4.0/5.0
Rating: 4.0/5.0

Bob Muldoon (Casey Affleck) and Ruth Guthrie (Rooney Mara) – and what perfect names for a piece like this one – are fighting in the first scene of “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.” Of course, they’re doing so across a perfectly-lit, sunrise-or-sunset-timed field, in period costumes, and with the kind of poetic grace that filmmakers often think everyone had decades before they were born. Immediately, “Saints” sets its style. It’s heightened realism. The costumes and faces are dirty but it’s oh such a beautiful layer of dirt.

StarRead Brian Tallerico’s full review of “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” in our reviews section.

It’s not long before these beautiful people are separated. They’re caught in a shootout, Bob is taken away, and Ruth is left to give birth to their new child on her own. Years pass. When Bob hears his daughter has been born, he escapes his confinement and heads on a road trip to meet her, not knowing that one of the police officers involved in his capture, Patrick Wheeler (Ben Foster), has grown closer to Ruth and his daughter.

While the poster and opening scenes may set up “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” as a romance, Affleck and Mara are separated for most of the film. It is a film about the past slowly creeping up on the present. We are meant to question whether or not Bob should be successful; whether or not we’re supposed to even root for him to do so. Perhaps Ruth would be better off with a kinder soul like Patrick.

StarContinue reading for Brian Tallerico’s full “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” review.

“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” stars Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, and Ben Foster. It was written and directed by David Lowery. It opens in Chicago on August 30, 2013.

Ain't Them Bodies Saints
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Photo credit: IFC Films

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