Ain't Them Bodies Saints
This article originally appeared in FilmInk magazine
Ain't Them Bodies Saints is a class act - a romanticised tale of love and loyalty that grounds itself in its fair share of gritty realism - but any discussion would be remiss without mentioning its distinct lack of emotional resonance. As Casey Affleck's Bob Muldoon is whisked off to prison, he promises his girlfriend, Rooney Mara's pregnant Ruth Guthrie, that he'll return. This is a pact that puts him on the receiving end of a barrage of bullets from violent renegades and Ben Foster's sympathetic cop, Patrick Wheeler. Writer/director David Lowery has steeped the film in romantic montage, emphasising Affleck's unflinching drive to come home to reconnect with his family and there doesn't seem to be a 10-minute stretch that goes by that doesn't contain a love letter read in a loving southern accent.
That isn't to say the film is awash in sentiment as it’s all effectively employed to colour the action. It just so happens that the smatterings of gunplay are incredibly composed, conveying a pervading sense of doom and an energy propelled by its clear stakes. Lowery is adept at infusing emotional threads throughout the film's structure and it never feels like he’s re-treading the same ideas, though he definitely is. Unfortunately, after the credits roll, these threads seem alarmingly empty. The most palpable arc is the blossoming connection between Mara and Foster, a tender yet platonic affair that's juxtaposed deftly with the violence of her relationship with Affleck. Ever the magnetic performers, Foster and Mara play their conflicted characters so well it's a shame they didn't have a chance to explore them in more detail. Ain't Them Bodies Saints simply toes the line - it never treads too far into the inherent seriousness of its premise nor does it indulge in romantic sentiment either.