Critics' Pick

Ain't Them Bodies Saints (R)

Action/Adventure 90 August 16, 2013
By Chuck Wilson
In David Lowery's sublime new film, Ain't Them Bodies Saints, Bob Muldoon (Casey Affleck), who’s serving 25 to life for armed robbery and for wounding a cop during a shootout, frequently puts pencil to parchment paper and writes love letters to his girlfriend, Ruth (Rooney Mara). Bob's aching, lovelorn voice can be heard in voiceover throughout the film, reading those letters, setting the tone for a story suffused with longing, loss, and an unexpected eroticism. As Bob, Affleck is flat-out heartbreaking, not least when Bob hesitates before shooting a ruthless man who wants to kill him. For a frighteningly long moment, Bob, baffled and deeply saddened, can only stare at the man, whose own gun is raised. Bob Muldoon proves to be as inept at violence as he is at stealing. His one true gift (and not everyone has it) is for loving. Set in the 1970s, but grounded in a Depression-era sensibility, Ain't Them Bodies Saints has gorgeous photography (by Bradford Young) and thematically rich production design (by Jade Healy). With this film, his third, Lowery is destined to be compared, relentlessly, to director Terrence Malick (Badlands, The Tree of Life), but he may be closer in sensibility to the late Elia Kazan, who was a master at setting characters against landscapes that were as layered and complex as their emotions. Lowery isn't a Malick and he's certainly no Kazan, but he's his own man, and a filmmaker to watch.
David Lowery Rooney Mara, Ben Foster, Casey Affleck, Nate Parker, Keith Carradine David Lowery IFC Films

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