AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS (director/writer: David Lowery; cinematographer: Bradford Young; editors: Craig McKay/Jane Rizzo/Patrick M. Knickelbine; music: Daniel Hart; cast: Rooney Mara (Ruth Guthrie), Casey Affleck (Bob Muldoon), Ben Foster (Patrick Wheeler), Keith Carradine (Skerritt), Nate Parker (Sweetie)Kennadie Smith/Jacklynn Smith (Sylvie Guthrie); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Lars Knudsen/Jay Van Hoy/James M. Johnston/Toby Halbrooks/Cassian Elwes/Amy Kaufman; IFC Films; 2013)
“Lyrical reverie of all feeling and no action.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Writer-director David Lowery(“St. Nick“/”Deadroom”/”Lullaby”) poetic title is derived from a country song. Lowery’s pic strains for poetical meaning, as it aims to capture the last gasps of a changing America still foolishly in love with the Old West and its no longer plausible romantic myths. This 1970s folk tale is set in the Texas Hills and its bleak moody story and mannered dialogue reminds one of a Terrence Malick lyrical reverie of all feeling and no action. Wanted young Texas outlaw robbers Bob Muldoon (Casey Affleck) and Ruth Guthrie (Rooney Mara) are trapped in a farmhouse by a bunch of Texas Rangers, and during the shoot-out Bob’s crime partner is killed and Ruth wings the deputy Patrick Wheeler (Ben Foster) and Bob gallantly takes the blame to the tune of a stiff 25-year sentence, as the couple surrender without more of a fight.

The slow-moving pic fast forwards to four years later and the acquitted Ruth has given birth to Bob’s daughter Sylvie (twins Kennadie and Jacklynn Smith), now aged 4, with the couple being consummate letter writers. Meanwhile Bob, unable to handle the long sentence and wanting most of all to be with his family, succeeds in escaping, in his sixth try, and tries to figure out how he will see Ruth again, as promised, and the daughter he never met, with the police watching his wife’s house. Meanwhile the conflicted Ruth, given a farmhouse by Bob’s surrogate father, a somber white-haired shopowner, Skerritt (Keith Carradine), begins a cautious romance with the chivalrous deputy she shot.

The story never reaches epic proportions as imagined by the director and settles into a familiar but quirky shot small-town soap opera one, where family values are admired but hard to be realized. The melancholy drama’s intrinsic value is in the raw emotions exposed in the love triangle that reveals the agony of the three wounded souls, all glumly looking for themselves in the sleepy town of Meridian, Texas, where every would-be cowboy is looking good in their cowboy hats whether a good or a bad sort. Good acting triumphs over a shallow and pretentious script.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”