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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” offers strong cast, but lacks plot pacing and unity

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    An ethereal series of events that plays out across the unknown expanses of the South, “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” is a hazy, dark film of love somewhat akin to the classic Brontë novel “Wuthering Heights.”

    Substituting English moors for southern plains, the plot revolves around the two helpless lovers, Bob Muldoon (Casey Affleck) and Ruth Guthrie (Rooney Mara). Muldoon commits robberies to provide for his pregnant wife, but the law eventually catches up to him.

    In a shootout with the police, Guthrie grabs a gun and shoots officer Patrick Wheeler (Ben Foster). Muldoon decides to take the fall for his lover and turns himself over to the police. With Muldoon locked away, Guthrie must raise their child alone, while Wheeler tries to usurp Muldoon’s role in Guthrie’s life.

    Once Muldoon inevitably breaks out, though, their paths collide in a violent meeting. This is a tale where the lovers whisper to each other that their love for one another knows no earthly bounds, and they promise each other, in hushed tones, they will always find each other.

    Interestingly enough, the film always provides the sense that it is either leading to or moving away from something. This is partly thanks to the very emotive soundtrack.

    Melancholic strings create a thick and tense atmosphere, while fast-paced, syncopated clapping is ominous of a fateful, and usually violent, event. Another result of the soundtrack, interestingly enough, is that most of the film has the feeling of being a montage.

    This effect is compounded by the interesting representation of time. The film plays out in alternately broad and intimate strokes.

    Large swaths of time and important events are covered in mere moments; Sylvie Guthrie, their baby, grows into a small child in frames, and a lengthy jail sentence passes by in a blink.

    While this makes the film original, it also functions as the film’s greatest flaw. The film is always in motion, making it nearly impossible to connect to the scenes.

    The emotional structure of the film is a flat line. Rising action, falling action and the climax are indiscernible. A film that is always in motion never seems to go anywhere.

    Mara delivers a confident performance and her gaunt face never betrays what her character is thinking. Muldoon’s earnestness and reckless need to be with his family is marked by a distinct sense of mortality and doom. Foster plays the mostly straight-edged character of the police officer, yet is so convincing in his role that one almost wishes that Guthrie would give up on her bad boy for the good guy.

    “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” almost attains what it strives toward. Its characters, music, cinematography, setting and story are coherent and should fit together, but the pacing of the film leaves them as disparate elements, rather than a cohesive whole.

    Grade: B-

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