An old-fashioned tale of life, love, and loss set to the sunny and shadowy panoramic vistas of lovely Texas. This Terrence Malick flick…what’s that? It’s not a Terrence Malick film? But, I swear the imagery and structure are just like…okay, okay…but what about…okay! Never mind I believe you…why?…I just checked IMDB. Now, regardless of who directed it, “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,” although overly traditional, even conventional to a fault is a remarkable reinvigoration of a classic, timeless story with universal motivations and rewards. It might be a little too lackadaisical for some and paced like a leisurely stroll. Yet, whatever it lacks in pure thrills, it more than makes up for with stunning visuals, attractive characters, and mesmerizing dialogue. It’s acted with a ton of heart and has plenty of staying-power to offer. While it wasn’t directed by the master of art-house Terrence Malick, it has all his signature trademarks and signals a promising career for director David Lowery.
How far would you be willing to go for a loved one? How much would you sacrifice for them? If any of these inquires and their periphery topics caught your attention, “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” just might be for you. And if you know me, which you probably don’t, you’d know that the romance genre just happens to be my guilty pleasure. What can I say? I’m a hopeless romantic. Plus, you know, I am an aspiring writer, which pretty much means loving love is a necessary trait…but I digress. Now, if you’re thinking that these questions of love and devotion have been asked and explored so many times over that they’ve practically lost all meaning and don’t apply to you, this flick will definitely change your perspective. One might be able to resist the intoxication of romance on other, lesser, weakly enthusiastic occasions. But when the performances are this convincing and the setting so beautiful, it makes even the heartless get weak in the knees.
Director David Lowry’s “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” really is quite something. An original, heartfelt take on the outlaw romance. Baring some similarities with a few of the best in this sub-genre’s canon like “Bonnie and Clyde” and Terrence Malick’s “Badlands,” which just happens to be one of my all time favourite films. Lowry’s unflinching, authentic look at a couple’s long, arduous road to reuniting is nothing short of hypnotizing and easy on the eyes, do in large part to his youthful, inventive style and endless talent. But make no mistake, it isn’t always a breeze to watch.
While not overly violent, minus a few exchanges of gunfire. The premise, the film’s characters and their collaborative progression through it to the finale is infuriating and disheartening, making “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” difficult to stomach at times. In all honesty though, the complex emotions brought on by “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” is astounding and very intriguing. And when it comes down to it, a small price to pay for such a thoroughly beautiful experience. Not to mention the original soundtrack, composed by Daniel Hart, which adds another transcendent layer to the delectable cinematic feast that is “Ain’t Them Bodies a Saints.”
What’s even more captivating is the invested, towering performances of the film’s three stars, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, and Rooney Mara. If the staggering emotional depth and striking imagery doesn’t lure you in, this trio of underused and underrated talent is sure to do the trick. Mara and Affleck portray the couple who flee from the law until their introverted, romantic lifestyle is abruptly torn. Both do a phenomenal job exuding the love in their hearts and the pain it inevitably brings. Separately however, they are ruthless, strong independent sociopaths. As for Foster, who continues to stun in every role he chooses, gives another unprecedented portrayal. What’s quite perplexing and sort of ironic about the film is that Foster’s character is the most unprejudiced and passionate. Regardless though, the trio’s efforts here must be witnessed.
The performances and imagery more than make up for any faults one can find with the story. Add in some strong direction and “Ain’t Them a Bodies Saints” is a modern day “Bonnie and Clyde.”
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints: 8 out of 10.