Review: ‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’


Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
| David Lowery | August 16, 2013

The power of love during the passage of time is something the plagues the characters of David Lowery’s latest film, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. It’s one of the most sublimely shot films you’ll see this year, as it takes you through the emotional journey that time apart from a loved one can do to you.

It’s a tale set in the Midwest about a married couple who are arrested after a holdup goes terribly wrong. We see the sacrifice of love and the long lasting effects that have permanent life altering consequences. The young lovers, Bob (Casey Affleck) and Ruth (Rooney Mara), have their love taken away from them after Bob is sent to prison for the crimes, sacrificing himself out of love for Ruth. It’s only years later that he escapes prison and makes his way towards Ruth in order to reconnect with his love, and to meet his baby daughter.

Although that is the plot of Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, its only one part of the film. You see, director David Lowery slowly lets it all unfold with slow, tepid pacing, that allows you to connect to the characters mindset and understand the difficulties of adapting to this new life without each others company. The film is gorgeously shot by Bradford Young and soundtracked by the riveting score by Daniel Hart. These efforts breath just as much life into the film as the characters do. Lowery lets it all unfold in a Terrence Malick-like fashion that swept me straight off my feet. The combination of such a graceful score full of strings and stirring-ness and elegant camera work really works its wonders on you

Bob is on the run, expecting to find the romance that he left behind. Ruth is still very much in love with Bob, taking care of their baby daughter together, a constant reminder of him. But Patrick Wheeler, the cop that was involved in the holdup, has become a part of Ruth’s life, and it creates a scenario that is tough for any of the three parties to handle.

The story is affecting and moving, but the real treat is how the film displays it all. It’s a whirlwind of melancholy and riveting displays of an almost constant fading sunset, reflecting how everything is becoming hazy memory fading into the past for the characters. The score only makes things that much more affecting, to the point where you literally have no choice but to marvel at how well executed it all is. It’s breathtaking and for lack of a better world, beautiful.

Cassey Affleck bites into this role with a convincing performance that is built on his moving accent which just has this poetic feel to it. Rooney Mara is yet again strong, playing the part with elegance and grace in a subdued fashion that is not without notice. Ben Foster steals the movie with a quiet but assured performance as a concerned cop who cares deeply for Ruth. There’s also a rock solid performance from Keith Carradine and an interesting part for Charles Baker who you know best as Breaking Bad’s Skinny Pete. There’s also a brief but well done cameo from Rami Malek. All these characters, especially Affleck and Mara, are able to blend into this world with graceful ease.

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is a story told for the most part purely through visuals, leaving it all out on the table through sight and sound. There are no plot devices or unnecessary elements. Not everything is told to us, we are left to fend for ourselves at times, which is perfectly fine with me. David Lowery lets the film breathe at the speed it needs to be, and although some may find its pace dreadful, it will find ways to work wonders on your heart and soul if you give it a chance. It’s a moving piece of art that I predict will grow to be more and more appreciated as the years go on. It’s the type of film that will take its time to move you but when it does, your swept straight off your feet.

Rating: 8.6/10