Home Year 2013 Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013)

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013)

Mara was shocked at the very specific terms of her contract.
Mara was shocked at the very specific terms of her contract.

Twitter Plot Summary: After years in prison, Bob Muldoon escapes to be with his wife and the daughter he has never met.

Genre: Crime/Drama/Romance

Director: David Lowery

Key Cast: Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Nate Parker, Keith Carradine, Robert Longstreet, Charles Baker, Augustine Frizzell, Kentucker Audley

Five Point Summary:

1. A shootout – this can end one of two… oh, they chose that one.
2. Ruth is settled, yet Bob isn’t. He’s gonna make a run for it, isn’t he?
3. Father/son relationship. Kind of.
4. Another shootout, this time with persons unknown…
5. It’s a bit like Mud, this finale…

Opening with a shootout in Texas, a wife and husband seek shelter inside an isolated house as the police surround them outside. The wife shoots an officer, but they quickly realise the odds are against them and escape is unlikely. With no hope for escape, Bob Muldoon (Affleck) gives himself up and tells his wife Ruth Guthrie (Mara) to say that he coerced her into helping him – complicating matters is she’s pregnant. Suffice to say, he’s arrested and she’s allowed to get on with her life. On parting, Bob and Ruth touch foreheads and without words clearly demonstrate their affection for one another. Simple storytelling at its finest.

Some time later, Ruth has moved on and is living with her daughter, however she receives some attention from local police officer Patrick Wheeler (Foster), who, ironically enough, is the officer Ruth shot during the shootout. Meanwhile Bob breaks out of prison and makes his way home to reunite with Ruth and to see the daughter he has never met. Just to further complicate things – beyond the police looking for him – is that another group of criminals are looking for the money that Bob stole, which leads to a finale reminiscent of the one we saw in the equally entertaining Mud earlier this year.

"There. Are. FOUR. Lights!"
“There. Are. FOUR. Lights!”

I’ve not seen much of Terence Malick’s work, but this embodies his style and could easily be mistaken for one of his films. There’s a sleepy, langorous quality to the film, but thankfully not to the same extreme as Only God Forgives. Whilst the story is nothing too exceptional, it’s a film that is beautifully shot with an interesting use of colour, shade and dark – it’s rare that you’ll have a scene shot at any other time other than sunrise, sunset or at some point in the night. One element of the script that came to the fore, for me at least, was the criminal mindset – how, despite the fact they are sent to prison and escape (thus setting up more prison time if they are caught), they still expect to live a normal life once they make it back home. As we see all too often, this is very rarely the case, but is still fascinating to see played out on the cinema screen.

No backstory is given to Ruth and Bob – we pick up with their shootout and that’s the extent of it. Thankfully the script and performances are adept enough that we don’t need such exposition – Mara gives an understated yet powerful performance as Ruth, who as time goes on finds her feelings for Bob waning. Affleck meanwhile is equally strong as Bob, cannily portraying a man who isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer but is passionate and caring about the things and people he loves. Add a dollop of Keith Carradine as Skerritt, Bob’s surrogate father figure and you have an entertaining mix of family politics, for want of a better term, alongside the “man on the run” drama. There’s almost a sense of inevitability as to where the finale eventually leads us, but then that doesn’t really matter. What matters is the journey and the characters that inhabit it.

Favourite scene: Muldoon visits Skerritt. Skerritt tells him in no uncertain terms to leave Ruth alone.

Quote: “Every day I wake up thinking today’s the day I’m gonna see you. And one of those days, it will be so. And then we can ride off to somewhere. Somewhere far away.”

Score: 4/5

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