Tag Archives: Rooney Mara

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.

Side Effects

19 Aug

side effects



Director: Steven Soderbergh

Writer: Scott Z. Burns

Stars: Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum, Jude Law

Motion picture rating: R

Runtime: 106 minutes


As a Brit looking at the US there are few subjects that boggle the mind more than the American fascination and part addiction to guns and pharmaceuticals. The former seem to be more deeply debated than the latter, but at their core are similar arguments and interest groups. If the fabulous 2005 film Thank You For Smoking was remade today I wonder if a pharmaceutical lobbyist would be added to the small group of tobacco, alcohol and gun spokespeople. Certainly it makes sense to me. The pharmaceutical business in the US is massive and the Government’s Centre for Disease Control & Prevention has classified the abuse of prescription drugs in the US an epidemic.

This film focuses on prescription drug abuse by Emily (Rooney Mara) during and after her husband Martin’s (Channing Tatum) stint in prison for insider trading. He comes out and hopes to restart his life with Emily, but she becomes distracted, depressed and distant. To counter those feelings Emily’s doctor (Jude Law) prescribes her a new anti-depressant mentioned to him by a friendly psychiatrist (Catherine Zeta Jones) and that Emily had seen advertised on TV. In that period of consultation the director Soderbergh highlights the many ways that liberal advertising rules, widespread drug trials and physicians in the pay of drug company’s combine to flood the US with prescription drugs. And every character in the film appears to be on one drug or other.

Mara is becoming a supreme actress and she is first-rate playing the fragile and lost Emily. Her decline once on the new anti-depressant is sadly believable as are the bemusement of her husband and the frustration of her doctor. Tatum and Law do well in support as does Zeta Jones and Soderbergh pulls the strings beautifully. The first half of the film is a smart meditation on the effects of over medication, but the movie then shifts gears.

The second half is more of a thriller. The four main characters are more tightly involved than it first appears and in revealing the connections Side Effects becomes gripping and clever. The change up is handled well enough, but in hindsight this is a case of two different films being pushed together; the polemic on the abuse of prescription drugs and a straight-up conspiracy thriller. The talented Soderbergh gets away with it and Side Effects is an entertaining film, but with so much material it would also have made an outstanding six-part TV series.

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