Film review: Ain't Them Bodies Saints starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara


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The Independent Culture

The title is just one of many intriguing aspects to this ballad-like drama of doomed love. Writer-director David Lowery has taken his elliptical storytelling and dreamy magic-hour light from Terrence Malick, but he brings something of his own to the slowly unfolding tragedy set in Texas hill country. Early on two young outlaws, Bob (Casey Affleck) and Ruth (Rooney Mara), are cornered in a shoot-out with the police. Ruth wounds a deputy, but Bob takes the rap for her and goes down. Four years later, Ruth is bringing up their daughter when news comes that Bob has broken out of jail – but is it too late? Touching support comes from Ben Foster as the deputy who falls for Ruth, and Keith Carradine as an old man who once adopted the fugitive pair.

It's a potent backwoods fable, located in an austere 1970s that could almost be the 1950s: letters, not telephones, are the vital means of communication here. The ghosts of earlier American movies hang around the margins, notably The Last Picture Show and, thanks to Carradine, some early Robert Altman. Mara's hunted-deer eyes and Affleck's quavery sing-song voice are just right for keeping our judgment off-balance and our senses on guard.