Tag Archives: Ben Foster

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

3 Nov

Aint them bodies

 

Director: David Lowery

Writers: David Lowery

Stars: Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster

Motion Picture Rating: R

Runtime: 96 minutes

 

The inexperienced writer-director David Lowery admitted that he set out to make a “classic film” with Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and he certainly gave it a good go. He demonstrates a high level of technical skill and is supported by a strong cast, an effective score and some beautiful cinematography. This is a wonderful looking film that deserves recognition. It does not reach classic status, but so few films actually do.

Bob Muldoon (Affleck) and Ruth Guthrie (Mara) are lovers and bank robbers in 1970’s rural Texas. Bob takes the fall after a failed getaway, is sent to prison and leaves pregnant Ruth behind. They both suffer their separation deeply with Bob writing endless letters home and Ruth re-focusing her attention on their daughter. In time Ruth strikes up a friendship with local sheriff Patrick Wheeler (Foster) whilst Bob’s mentor Skerritt (David Carradine) watches on. When Bob breaks out of prison the slowly developing lives of those left behind are further entwined and changed for good.

The heart of this film is the passionate relationship between Bob and Ruth. Once apart the story focuses on how they adjust with Ruth learning to fend for herself and to be a mother. As the years go by she realizes the conflict inherent in loving an outlaw and caring for her daughter. Ruth opens up a little with the sheriff, but feels guilty doing so and like the imprisoned Bob she yearns for life as it was before they were caught. Rooney Mara conveys all of that passion, conflict and guilt. It is an excellent performance and it is matched by those of Affleck, Foster, impressive yet again in a supporting role, and Carradine.

The casting of Affleck and Mara is a coup for the writer-director Lowery. Rightly these are two of the hottest actors working today and it is stirring to see them together on screen. At times Rooney’s flawless porcelain skin is at odds with her Texan country girl roots, but ultimately she convinces as the doomed Ruth. Affleck is always good. The direction is as strong as the acting and the whole film is beautifully shot in hues of a late summer haze. It is a slow ride and that will frustrate some viewers, but tension builds and the ending is smart.

It is impossible to watch this film and not to think of the work of Terence Malick. The plot in part resembles Badlands (1973) and the country setting echoes Days of Heaven (1978). The slow, controlled pacing and warmly photographed natural world are central to The Tree of Life (2011). Malick makes ‘classic films’ and Lowery is trying to follow suit. In doing so he has produced an old-fashioned effort with a lot of heart and passages of real beauty. It has its flaws, but the ambition should be applauded and I would describe this as a minimalist triumph.

360

13 Mar

360 poster

 

Director: Fernando Meirelles

Writer: Peter Morgan (screenplay)

Stars: Rachel Weisz, Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins

Motion Picture Rating: R

Runtime: 110 minutes

 

The director Fernando Meirelles comes to this film with the hugely impressive City of God (2002) in his personal archive and the writer Peter Morgan with The Queen (2006) and Frost /Nixon (2008) on his CV. They make a high powered pair and certainly everything about this film is polished and professional. It also has a strong cast with big English thespians Law, Weisz and Hopkins on board. The omens are good and the theme is ambitious; a ‘moving tale of love in the 21st century’.

The film opens with a scene of a Slovakian girl auditioning in Vienna for some form of online escort service. It is a seedy business and the girl, and audience, is made to feel more than a little uncomfortable. Having followed her back to Bratislava, the film changes focus and moves to Paris and then to London. As a study of 21st century love, the film jumps around cities and characters and ultimately also takes in Denver and Phoenix. The stories roll into each other in some clever ways, but not every story enthralls. All the while there is a truly quirky and jazzy soundtrack that accompanies what at times feels like a bit like a ‘70’s travelogue.

In the early sequences we encounter mostly disloyal and unhappy couples. The lack of love is acutely demonstrated by London couple Weisz and Law. They are very good actors and very watchable together in this, although not on screen for long. More time is spent with other frustrated characters, but some of those are paper thin. Possibly the best character is the just out of prison sex offender played by Ben Foster. His story is oddly riveting and the film benefits from delving into darker territory. At that point Hopkins’ role as a grieving parent is also introduced and his portrayal is about the most watchable turn that he has completed for years.

What is it all about? Well, it addresses random connections and the modern collective sense of alienation, but probably is more concerned with encouraging its audience to open up to chance encounters. As such it is too earnest at times and the more upbeat final third produces one or two clichés too many. This is not a bad film, but there is not much new on display and apart from the odd mild shock, it is simply not challenging enough. Considering the film-makers, the cast and the subject matter, I see that as a missed opportunity.

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