Ain’t Them Bodies Saints debuted at Sundance Film Festival this year and was nominated for an award at Cannes. It isn’t hard to see why it was critically acclaimed over the summer as the cinematography and story telling is something quite out of the ordinary in today’s cinema releases. To be perfectly honest though I was unaware of this before I went into the cinema, I hadn’t seen the trailer or heard any reviews. Going in blind to see Ain’t Them Bodies Saints came as quite a shock and its a good job I was already in a subdued mood.
The film follows Bob, an escaped prisoner in Texas who travels over the country to reunite with his wife Ruth, and their daughter Sylvie who he has never met. The story is quite vague, it begins with the incident that leads to Bob’s incarceration, and through his prison sentence and Sylvie’s birth quite quickly without much background to these characters. They are obviously devoted to each other though and how David Lowery (writer and director) managed to convey this love is quite beautiful for such a short time that the two characters are actually together on screen. None of the characters in fact are entitled to any kind of history, everything that happens, bar the first 5 minutes or so, is present. Though at the time I couldn’t tell you what era this film is based. I am going to guess the 60’s due to the vehicles alone but it could be set in any era, and felt old worldly.
Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara take the lead roles, both giving excellent performances – especially Affleck who I took to straight away and gave an honest humble performance which was almost flawless. Ben Foster plays the towns Sheriff, playing a different role to his usual which came as a surprise – I did find his character slightly disappointing though, only because I know what Foster is capable of. None the less his usual manic flair wouldn’t have fit with the story line and he still brings his A game to the role. Keith Carradine is also worth a mention as Skerritt who has a brilliant authoritative presence, seemingly Ruth and Bob’s guardian when they were children but his role is never fully explained.
There are many parts of the story that remain unexplained, I can’t decide if this added to the over all experience or if I was left deflated because there were so many unanswered questions. It was as if they would introduce a new twist and then leave it hanging without wrapping it up. Hard to explain succinctly without giving away any spoilers but I know I was asking a lot of questions when I came out of the cinema.
After bombarding each other with said questions on the way to the car, my friend and I sat in silence for the rest of the journey – this film made us pretty depressed. Or should I say pensive, or melancholy to be more poetic. Because that’s what Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is, it is a poetic love story beautifully shot and effortlessly acted. It does take quite a while to get into but I didn’t mind this aspect of the plinky plonky daily business, as long as you don’t expect anything to happen for a good hour or so you wont be disappointed.
My POV – a relaxing film harking back to the old Hollywood era, definitely worth a watch if you enjoy slow paced, visually stunning love stories that aren’t particularly romantic after all.