Ain't Them Bodies Saints
Directed by David Lowery
Opens at the Charles Theatre Sept. 6
Just as word comes that Ben Affleck has signed on for Batman 19 or So, his brother Casey comes out with this indie character study, which is about as far from a summer blockbuster as you can get.
The younger Affleck stars as Bob, a hotheaded, self-mythologizing outlaw, opposite Rooney Mara's Ruth, the smart, soft-spoken love of his life. During a shootout early in the film, Ruth, who is pregnant with their daughter, wounds the sheriff (Ben Foster) in the Texas town where they live. Bob takes the blame and is sent to prison across the country. Four years later, on his sixth attempt, Bob finally breaks out of prison, determined to reunite with Ruth and their daughter. In the meantime Ruth has settled into life in the small town, where various forces are determined to keep them apart, including the overprotective father figure (Keith Carradine) who watches over her and the sheriff she shot, who proves to be a much more layered character that we may initially think.
That may sound like a fair amount of action, but Ain't Them Bodies Saints moves achingly slowly for long stretches, one of many things it has in common with Terrence Malick's classic Badlands (the straight-talking outlaw couple and the gorgeous windswept rural landscapes are two more). We're able to really soak in these characters and, with relatively sparse dialogue, to really get a sense of them. Mara, in particular, communicates remarkably well with small gestures and few words.
Bob gets tantalizingly close to reuniting with his family early enough in the film that we feel certain we know where things are headed. But, like in some sweaty, frustrating dream, obstacles, detours, and wrong turns keep popping up and new wrinkles materialize, leaving us scrambling to shift our assumptions. By the end, we find ourselves in a completely different place than we expected, and it's a welcome surprise.