A luscious, moody noir set in '70's Texas.
Ain't Them Bodies Saints
Director: David Lowery (St. Nick)
Cast: Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone)
Runtime: 96 Min.
by John DeSando
David Lowery has helmed an homage to Bonnie and Clyde, Badlands, Terrence Malick, and the hot lusts of Texas. Ain't Them Bodies Saints is a noir western about a couple in the mid '70's who pull a heist that ends with a shootout and Bob (Casey Affleck) taking the blame for shooting a lawman (Ben Foster),whom Ruth (Rooney Mara) had wounded. The low-key lighting, gritty mise en scene and minimal dialogue add the right touch of evil if not a bit self consciously. It's a tone poem to doomed love with more action than Malick has ever had.
The mood of inevitability that hangs over the film is effective as the director crosscuts between Bob in prison and Ruth and their child carving out a life in the same small town as in the crime. He escapes to return there. The crosscutting among her, him , and some bad guys hunting him down is filled with tension while we feel the resolution will take a typical turn, and in a way it does not.
Ain't is a love story most of all, one about star-crossed lovers fated by their unreasonable love for each other, his an obsession to return to her and bond with their child when the cards are stacked against his being able to elude the justice that hangs over him in every frame. As if no Country for Old Men’s Anton Chigurh were chasing him, Bob doggedly works his way home while we feel justice this time will out.
Affleck carries the youthful foolishness believably while Mara underplays her not-so-victimized heroine with an understated grace that shows her versatility, at least as one thinks of her in-your-face role in the American remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Keith Carradine is quietly impressive as a questionably upright citizen whose role becomes more defined later on but remains enigmatic even in the end. Peter Fonda could have played the role as well, both actors throwbacks to a golden time in American cinema.
The film would have been better with more background on the original crime and why Bob is so obsessed with this understated but Siren-like lover. Yet, it's clear from the opening lovers' argument-makeup scene, we are in for tempestuous love. As it is, in pre-Oscar fall, Ain't Them Bodies is refreshingly artful and never dull. This reviewer is grateful.
John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at WCBE.org. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com