Ain't Them Bodies Saints Movie Review
Although set in the 1970s, this dramatic thriller has a distinctly Western vibe to it, digging into the darker emotional corners of characters who are trying to make it through life on their own terms. It's moody and evocative, focussing on internal feelings rather that big action beats, so it feels dreamlike and a bit sleepy. And also strangely mesmerising.
When we meet Bob and Ruth (Affleck and Mara), they're hopelessly in love. She knows he's not good for her, but she's pregnant so makes the most of it. Short of cash in rural Texas, they plot a messy bank robbery, during which he injures police officer Patrick (Foster) and is sent to prison. Four years later, she's now living on her own with her young daughter, watched over by Bob's old mentor Skerritt (Carradine). But she's also struck up an awkward friendship with Patrick. So when Bob escapes from prison and comes back for her, he's in for a rather nasty shock.
Writer-director Lowery uses striking visuals and minimalistic dialog, shooting scenes with an unexpected sensuality to explore each point where these people interact. Everything is understated (the title is never explained at all), which allows the actors to give delicate, transparent performances that catch us off guard with their honesty. Affleck, Mara and Foster are fascinatingly complicated as three parts of an untidy triangle that only hints at romance. Carradine adeptly provides both wit and gravity to his scenes, while Parker gives a beautiful performance as Bob's reluctant buddy.
The connections between all of these people overflow with affection as well as regret and guilt, and every subtle glance is packed with deep resonance that we understand without being able to put words to it. Sometimes this makes the movie annoyingly vague, and we long for a spark of energy to kick it up a gear. We also sometimes wish we could see the more action-oriented moments in these people's lives. But Lowery refuses to show us what we expect, and instead leaves us with plenty to roll over in our minds long into the night.