In Review: Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

by Daniel Goodwin on 15/08/2013


For a little known director with only a handful of productions under his belt, David Lowery struck a chord at the Sundance Film Festival this year with his astounding second feature Ain’t Them Bodies Saints: a subdued, 70s and Texas set drama that is low in budget but epic in scale. The film won the Sundance Dramatic Cinematography award and is a beautiful yet haunting tale of heartache and loss that stirs without surrendering to coy sentiment.

The story follows Bob Muldoon (Casey Affleck), an outlaw who breaks out of prison to reunite with his wife Ruth (Rooney Mara) and a daughter he has never met. Feeling indebted to Bob, Ruth has to come to terms with an urge to do what’s right for their daughter and her evolving feelings for a new man that has entered their lives. Flitting perspectives from Casey Affleck’s outlaw to his conflicted wife and the town Sherriff played by Bob Foster, Lowery delivers an emotionally complex and deep-rooted drama complimented by awesome cinematography and a disjointed but fitting score by Daniel Hart.

While the mood is sombre and tranquil, Lowery evokes a dream-like haze through calming shots of cloudy Texas landscapes at sundown and dawn. The story is simple, yet involving, delving into the complex dramas of the troubled protagonists via restrained yet powerful performances that make for slow burning yet totally engrossing cinema. Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara excel in multi-layered roles adding to the melancholia, as does Bob Foster, while Lowery’s screenplay is both reticent and penetrative, unravelling at a steady pace.

On the whole ATBS is a sparse and soaring masterpiece, immaculately woven with western aesthetics. It is not a complicated film yet has complicated characters and doesn’t seek to stun via set pieces or spectacular plot twists but is enriched with so many subtle qualities it is easy to get swept away in its melancholic nonchalance. In a summer of bloated blockbusters ATBS serves as a startling reminder of how much a film can rattle our cores with a tiny budget and enormous talent. It is sure to make its most powerful impact on the big screen and possibly come Oscar time.

Daniel has awarded Ain’t Them Bodies Saints five Torches of Truth

5 torches

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: