"Ain't Them Bodies Saints"
Release Date: Aug. 23, 2013
Running Time: 97 minutes
Director David Lowery’s haunting Texas-set thriller Ain’t Them Bodies Saints favorably recalls Terrence Malick’s early American heartland dramas with its circumspect tone, unwavering belief in the bonds that tie, and elegant cinematography. Casey Affleck stars as a convicted bank robber who escapes from prison with the intention of reuniting with his wife (Rooney Mara) and to hold in his arms for the first time the 4-year-old daughter he’s never met. Despite a subplot that leads to a violent climatic confrontation, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints isn’t overly concerned with law enforcement’s pursuit of Affleck. Lowery rightly focuses on the emotional journey Affleck’s husband and father undertakes in his bid to be with his family. There are other issues at play that further motivate Affleck, most notably Mara’s role in his arrest and conviction. Affleck’s performance is marked by the steely resolve of a man who feels compelled to care for and provide for the family. There’s no sense of obligation to be found in Affleck’s outlaw—just pure, unconditional love. On the other hand, Mara quietly wrestles with her conflicted feelings for Affleck. She now considers herself a mother first, then a wife, and she subtly articulates the inner turmoil that comes from having to chose between the way things are and the way things could be. She understands the importance of having Affleck in their daughter’s life, but she knows that going on the run with Affleck is no way to live. Complicating matters is the attention Mara receives from the police officer (Ben Foster) who was wounded during the shootout that result in Affleck’s arrest. The compassionate Foster provides an invaluable outsider’s perspective on the situation, one that allows us to watch events unfold without sitting in judgment of Affleck or Mara. While we know Affleck’s past, Lowery presents us with a man who is not inherently evil or beyond redemptation. From the very beginning it’s made clear that Affleck is a husband who is willing to sacrifice for his family. At the same time, Lowery doesn’t turn a blind eye to the consequences of Affleck’s past actions and the likely ramifications of him reentering Mara’s life. Like Mara, we hope for the best possible outcome in Ain’t Them Bodies Saints while remaining keenly aware that no good can come out of Affleck’s unwavering desire to fulfill his responsibilities as a husband and a father.
Aired: Aug. 22, 2013
Web site: http://www.ifcfilms.com/films/aintthembodiessaints