MRR Review: "Ain't Them Bodies Saints"

Photo Credit: IFC Films

MRR Review: "Ain't Them Bodies Saints"

Rating: R (Violence)
Length: 105 min
Release Date: Aug. 16, 2013
Directed by: David Lowery
Genre: Drama

"Ain't Them Bodies Saints" is a 2013 dramatic film about a young husband who wants nothing more than to protect his wife and daughter, even if it means being separated from them forever. Casey Affleck delivers a pitch-perfect performance as Bob Muldoon, a rough-and-tumble farmer who marries the love of his life. His wife is Ruth Guthrie, played by the mysterious Rooney Mara, and she proves herself more than capable of the rough life of a Texan farmer.
One day, Bob and Ruth's small family farm is overrun by local officers of the law. A pregnant Ruth accidentally shoots one of the encroaching officers in her panic, leaving him dead on the scene. Unable to watch his pregnant wife go to jail, Bob takes the fall and is sent far away to the state penitentiary. Bob writes letters to his young wife while in prison, promising her that he'll return one day and take her away somewhere they can be together.

Meanwhile, left on her own to raise a young daughter and run a farm, Ruth finds herself falling into depression. A local police officer named Patrick Wheeler, played by Ben Foster, steps up and becomes a much-needed pillar of support for the mother and daughter. Ruth falls for his charms, and her daughter welcomes the influence of a father figure in their family. While the three are beginning to form their own familial bond, Bob manages to break out of prison across the state. As he always promised in his letters, he immediately sets out on a quest to reunite with his wife and the daughter he has never even met.

"Ain't Them Bodies Saints" is a brilliant film directed by David Lowery, who is known for such powerful dramas as "Pioneer" and "St. Nick." Lowery once again delivers a dramatic masterpiece designed with the flair of a classic western film. "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" is more than just a modern classic, though. The film contains some truly unique elements, and the cinematography paints its story in an unconventional light. Unlike other films in which the antihero is attempting to escape prison for a crime he committed, Bob takes the fall for his wife, putting her in the middle of the action and drama. This role reversal is just one of many twists the film has to offer, and the addition of Ben Foster's character leads to a love triangle that amps the drama up to a whole new level.

"Ain't Them Bodies Saints" feels like an independent film with its novel storytelling and breathtaking performances from a cast of reliable method actors, but the cinematography is decidedly high budget. The film is laden with artistic imagery of the beautiful and sprawling Texan plains, creating a contrast between Bob's claustrophobic experience in prison and the endless expanse that awaits him upon obtaining freedom. The film feels as if it is set in a much earlier time thanks to its sepia tones and the cloistered feel of the small town Ruth and Bob grew up in, whisking the viewer away to a world that is modern in many ways but nostalgic in others.

Ruth and Bob are undoubtedly star-crossed lovers, but "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" is anything but a clich├ęd love story. Viewers can expect plenty of unexpected twists and turns not only in the story of the film but in Ruth and Bob's relationship as well. Bob is confronted with the possibility that his wife may not have the same level of devotion to their relationship that he does. He finds himself torn between freedom and the promise of being with his new family, just as Ruth is torn between the idea of coming clean to free her husband and restore his reputation and living a new life with Patrick. Nothing is black and white on the Texas plains when love and the law intermingle, creating enough romantic tension and drama to shake a small town to its very core.

"Ain't Them Bodies Saints" is a refreshing film that blends all the best elements of the independent film genre and big-budget production. The cast of method actors delivers each line with remarkable precision and believability, making their world come alive. This film is perfect for anyone tired of the same old formulas and willing to branch out to enjoy a novel film experience. "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" has all the makings of a modern classic and promises to turn the outlaw genre on its head.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5