Cinematic Thoughts for Cinematic Minds
Director: David Lowery
It has to be said 2013 has been a good year for films so far, especially for up and coming directors from across the pond. We’ve had sensational films from Derek Cianfrance, Shane Carruth and Jeff Nichols and now we have this quite beautiful film from the often overlooked film editor/ come- director David Lowery.
‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saint’ is an exquisitely shot and directed film about the pursuit of true love against all odds. It initially pits Bob (Affleck) and Ruth (Mara) as the embodiment of young love and all that it represents; passion, unity but also chaos. In the early sections of the film chaos dictates the couple’s lives and after a robbery gone wrong the pair end up divided. Bob is sent to jail for a crime Ruth commits and Ruth is left alone and pregnant. The years pass and the intensity of their love wills Bob to escape prison and venture back to Ruth, it is this journey to find her that dominates the run time of the film.
It’s always nice when you set out to research a film- maker and you stumble upon a piece of information you’d subconsciously spotted. The opening sequence of the film cuts quickly from the couple talking in a field to them beginning a robbery then it jumps to them mid-car chase and then finally finds them penned down by gunfire in an old wooden shack. The last film I watched recently had been Shane Carruth’s ‘Upstream Color‘ and I remember thinking to myself just how similar the editing was in both films. It transpires that David Lowery was actually the co-editor on ‘Upstream Color’ and it shows, with an obviously connected symmetry in film making between the two. The editing is the film’s main selling point. It doesn’t need more than its 95 minutes to tell this tale that actually spans over a four year period. It is subtle but also never fails to make its point clear and concise. Nothing is put to waste and you can sense that every scene was crafted with care and attention.
The acting performances only go on to strengthen this film’s claim as possibly the best of the year so far. Casey Affleck has never deserved an Oscar more for his portrayal of Bob Muldoon. A man so driven by his devotion for the woman he loves that he will stop at nothing to be with her again. Bob is a character with realms of fury hidden beneath his rather gentle surface and he only erupts into these when he is blocked on his path to return to Ruth. Rooney Mara likewise as Ruth puts in a staggering performance. The chemistry between the two leads is also phenomenal to say they only appear on screen together in a handful of scenes.
While it does appear that Bob’s story is the one that drives the film it is really Ruth’s character change that moves the film into more interesting territory. When she is separated from Bob she is a young girl who has just fallen pregnant, she is reckless and without morals. By the time we catch up with her later on she is a single mother and is attempting to become a more respectable role model. Her story is driven by the men in her life.
The men in Ruth’s life are the ones that define her change in motives. Local policeman Patrick Wheeler (Foster) plays the part of Ruth’s new suitor and where at first he appears driven by an all consuming lust for her we actually see that is genuinely in love with her. He offers Ruth what Bob cannot, stability and safety for her child. All Bob represents is the chaos of the film’s opening. Keith Carradine’s Skerritt plays Ruth’s somewhat protector. He appears as a kind of local enforcer who has dominion over Ruth’s welfare. He will stop at nothing to see that Ruth and her daughter remain away from Bob as he knows all to well what the escaped convict brings with him. Skerritt’s actions are what lead Bob down an altogether darker path but are also the actions that protect Ruth and help her move into the new life she seeks.
The film is altogether like a tidal wave of raw emotion. Just like Shane Carruth; David Lowery tells his story with a strict eye to detail and acting performances to drive these emotions home. You genuinely feel Bob’s emotions from just a simple look or sentence that adequately covers a complex array of feelings. I think truly it is one the best films I have ever seen for simply making me identify with the plight of the central characters in such a realistic way. If you can cry when watching a film you know that the director has really worked hard to reach out of that screen and pull on your heart. And David Lowery does just that… pure cinematic perfection.