Movie Review: 'Ain't Them Bodies Saints' -- 3.5 stars
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Directed by David Lowery
Starring Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster
Playing at Walter Reade Theater and IFC Center
Loneliness pervades David Lowery’s “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,” a movie that unfolds in empty rooms, on neon-lit streets and inside a spare home. It’s an American tragedy about a man deeply in love with a woman, or an idea of her, and the woman’s burgeoning realization that she can only survive by running away.
Set in Texas circa the ’70s, the film takes hold of a strong place in the tradition of lyrical heartland filmmaking, with magic-hour lighting of characters set against endless wheat fields and rushing trains melding with sudden explosions of violence.
It stars Rooney Mara as Ruth Guthrie, married to imprisoned outlaw Bob Muldoon (Casey Affleck), who escapes to be reunited with her and their daughter. Kindhearted police officer Patrick Wheeler (Ben Foster) complicates things, as does Bob’s tumultuous past.
The sense of place is strong throughout “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,” as is the quiet, spiraling sense of doom. Mara externalizes the mounting dread; her Ruth becomes increasingly aware of the danger Bob represents and stronger in her resolve to create a clean break, for herself and her daughter, despite still loving him. Reality breaks down the fantasy of reconciliation.
Mara’s excellent work, which transitions from wide-eyed naïveté to forceful intelligence, is the soul of this story, which follows the end of a beautiful romance and the beginning of a new life.