Ballast (15)

Starring: Michael J Smith Sr, Tarra Riggs
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The Independent Culture

Why this American indie should have taken three years to reach the UK is baffling, but I'm very glad it has. Set in the austere, unpeopled flatlands of the Mississippi Delta, it recounts the story of three people coming to terms with a suicide, which, like much else here, goes unseen.

Lawrence (Michael J Smith Sr) is a burly, reticent fellow choked up by his twin brother's death; James (JimMyron Ross) is the dead man's teenage son, bored and drifting into delinquency; Marlee (Tarra Riggs) is his mother, damaged by life and implacably hostile towards Lawrence, her brother-in-law. The first-time writer-director Lance Hammer unfolds this three-way relationship with watchful subtlety, having rehearsed his non-professional actors to a point where they seem to be living their characters, not projecting them. Shot in chilly midwinter blues and greys by the British cinematographer Lol Crawley, Ballast nods to the elliptical storytelling and moody implication of the Dardenne brothers (Rosetta, The Son), especially in the way it places character against landscape. But the film has a life of its own, too, expressed in a stoical patience and an understated humanity that makes of its final shot something quietly moving.