Ain't Them Bodies Saints - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Ain't Them Bodies Saints Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ November 2, 2015
A sad, melancholy Bonnie & Clyde-like crime drama that clearly borrows from Malick, and it is nice to see the way that Lowery approaches his narrative even if it is quite conventional and worth seeing more for its strong performances than by what he actually wants to tell.
Super Reviewer
May 19, 2014
Dark and lyrical to a fault, Ain't Them Bodies Saints is an exercise of style over substance, but is elevated by fantastic performances from Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Ben Foster, and Keith Carradine. The tone of this western sets up a tragic story about consequences and family as an outlaw tries to make it home to his family, and that hopelessness is reflected in the (now cliche) backdrop of a rural Texas setting.
Super Reviewer
October 17, 2013
Simple, beautiful and achingly tender.

Very good Film! Good story which needs some touching up, but the acting is first rate. It is a character study, a study in melancholy told in real, human terms and not in movie terms. And maybe that is its only flaw, that truth be told, real life is less dramatic and more grimy than make-believe. This is another triumph for Rooney Mara who is excellent as a strong, young woman who desires a better life and a man who can't get it for her. There's great irony in the way events turn out for her and it's all totally believable. I was also impressed with Casey Affleck's performance as her lover and small time criminal. Perhaps the film veers too closely at times toward stylish vagueness and too far from the broken heart of the story. But there is no denying this is a serious, authored work of art.

The tale of an outlaw who escapes from prison and sets out across the Texas hills to reunite with his wife and the daughter he has never met.
Super Reviewer
August 24, 2013
'Ain't Them Bodies Saints'. Quite simply, EVERYTHING works. Seriously. Character-driven perfection.

The dead-on pacing allows for the deep development of four characters in a relatively short runtime; the cast helps too. This has to be the best acted ensemble of the year. Keith Carradine does way more with his on-screen time than I expected. Ben Foster's ultra-restraint and Rooney Mara's nurturing, conflicted mother/wife deserve special mention.

When I say everything, I do mean everything. The score, the cinematography, the direction, the writing, the editing. None of it is overly flashy. What they all do in unison is build around the characters, giving a timeless feel to the story. A story which may have been told before, but examined by David Lowery through a different lens, focusing on the quieter moments.
Super Reviewer
½ December 23, 2013
This romantic crime drama written and directed by David Lowery debuted at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Cinematography Award in the U.S. Dramatic Category and nominated for the Grand Jury Prize and it was selected to compete in the International Critics' Week section at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival - that was more than enough not to miss it. And what a disappointment it was! I will let you know soon why...

The film follows an outlaw who escapes from prison and sets out across the Texas hills to reunite with his wife and the daughter he has never met. The film stars Casey Affleck as Bob Muldoon and Rooney Mara as Ruth Guthrie, and they did enough of their good acting to satisfy most of the film lovers... there was nothing wrong there. Ben Foster is excellent as a local sheriff with an eye for Ruth and Keith Carradine proves himself yet again to be one of our finest performers - acting was the best part. My big problem was David Lowery! I don't like directors who involve themselves in self-indulgence forgetting that there is audience out there... ok, I'll admit that sometimes they are so good, that you can forgive them and enjoy so much that everything is all right and you walk out of the cinema smiling at the end. But, this is only David Lowery's second feature film... Someone noticed that David Lowery hasn't made a movie so much as he's made an imitation of one! Amazingly stunning visuals will bring to you the sepia-toned mood but you will never have needed narrative coherence to be immersed in all the events and feel as a part of it - one of the critics wrote that this is "a film that tries to mimic the style of Terrence Malick and succeeds only too well". Like I didn't had enough with one self-indulgent prick and I needed another "mini-Me" prick...
Super Reviewer
½ December 25, 2013
Intimate, beautifully shot, methodically paced, and exceptionally composed, Ain't Them Bodies Saints is certainly one of the best independent dramas of the year. The film tells the story of two in love 'outlaws' in rural Texas who find themselves separated for years, in a constant struggle to reunite. It's a film of character study, of tone, and of fate.

What really separates Ain't Them Bodies Saints is the mature filmmaking. Scenes are allowed to build organically, the characters are allowed to distinguish themselves on screen, tension is built through the narrative. The story itself, though a simple one, is used to excellent effect, exploring themes of love, loss, fate, and morality. We are given characters to follow that are nuanced. There is no straight protagonist or antagonist, just flawed characters living in a flawed world, trying to defy the odds. The dialogue is captured brilliantly, with its rich, yet simple, texture and poignant nature. This is accentuated by the phenomenal performances of Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck, who have amazing chemistry, and are yet able to anchor every scene they are in. The film's one major flaw is not pairing them on screen together enough, but such is largely the nature of the story.

The cinematography with this film is amazing, evoking comparisons to Terrence Malick, and other maturely visual directors. Every scene holds a beauty and an apprehension, with director David Lowery finding the pitch perfect tone. He creates a world that is mesmerizing, alluring, but also foreboding. Everything about the film is intelligent, from its execution to its composition, making it a truly enthralling experience.

Overall, a hidden gem for the year.

4.5/5 Stars
Super Reviewer
½ December 13, 2013
Some of you have probably never heard of this film before. I just happen to take interest in it after seeing a trailer for it in class one day. This film pays big tribute to the lovers on the run type genre familiar within the 1970's. The plot is very generic and conventional, Although its mainly worth a look due to its visually poetic nature. The type of small scale film that aims to make a big impact. Don't go expecting something as big as those memorable romantic adventures made almost 40 years ago; This is a modern film that deserves to be seen and can foreshadow some great things to come from director Fred Lowery.
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
½ December 12, 2013
You know, there are ways to tastefully play with rural dialect that can either be clever or just kind of stupid, and this film's title... well, kind of leans more towards the former, because it appears to be too intelligent for me to figure it out. I can't really figure out if it's referring the corpses of saints, or the leads as saints, or something, but then again, it would be easier to figure out this title if they were to promote the premise more. Jokes aside, I've seen the occasional TV spot of this, and that's more than you get with a lot of films this low-profile, although, if I remember correctly, most, if not all of those TV spots may have been on IFC, and I can't think of too many people outside of myself who would spring for the cable package that has the "Independent Film Channel". The title, alone, is above people's heads... apparently, so I doubt this thing will be all that much of a commercial success, which isn't to say that that's a tremendously bad thing, as this project only stars Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara and Ben Foster. I understand that those three names, alone, seem pricy, but come on, people, Affleck is still not far enough away from his brother's shadow to earn big bucks, Mara is a young enough actress to still have some of that integrity nonsense, and, really, is Foster still that relevant? Well, this cast seems to at least be recognizable enough to fit into David Lowery's formula that attempts to, I don't know, rip off Terrence Malick, only with much less abstract pretentiousness and a little less... compellingness. Malick can make a pretty engaging snoozefest, yet Lowery, on the other hand, can deliver on a decent film, but can't keep it from slipping deeper into underwhelmingness than the consistency in Ben Foster's relevance.

Being about as, if not more meditative on stylistic depths as it is on the depths of substance, this film is almost surprisingly very underdeveloped, doing little to flesh out the depths of a story that is told too messily to compensate for underdevelopment, and may even be a little too recognizable. The story is worthy, if undercooked and limited in meat, yet this subject matter is still a little too familiar for its own good, with a plotting approach that is about as formulaic, and even limp in areas. Now, this film is not quite as slow as I feared it would be, but there are still many moments of scripted limpness and directorial atmospheric dryness that are decisively at their worst during the artistically lyrical moments in storytelling, which are beautifully done and all, but kind of distancing in their overstylizing storytelling with aimlessness. Of course, with all of my joking about this sometimes being a Terrence Malick rip-off, the moments of abstract lyricism aren't as overused as I expected, and that would be great and all if the limitations in decisiveness between traditionalist and abstract storytelling didn't present its own problem by driving inconsistency into narrative style, whose focus is also shaken by many a moment of cutting through the aimless fat around the edges in order to leap to highlights in plot, rather than take time to meditate upon the depths of this narrative's progression. There are plenty of times in which focus fades almost completely, and let me tell you, less aimless meditativeness and more attention to substance flesh-out are needed to overshadow certain natural shortcomings, which do indeed stand, for on top of being conventional, this story is simple, no matter how much David Lowery pumps the effort with a feel of ambition that makes limitations and other, more consequential shortcomings all the more glaring. There are some strong elements throughout this effort, but alas, Lowery's passion to bite off more than he can chew makes it impossible to disregards limitations, as well as mistakes, of which there are enough to make this potentially memorable drama arguably forgettable, and decidedly underwhelming. Nonetheless, while the film is misguided in too many ways to escape underwhelmingness, let alone achieve a rewarding status, there is a good bit of heart here, and there's no denying that when inspiration delivers, at least aesthetically.

Artistically, the film truly stands out, even when it comes to musical artistry, because even though Daniel Hart's score is kind of conventional in a lot of ways, and sometimes rather annoying with all of the playful pats and hand claps, it's generally fairly refreshing, with a subtly piercing, minimal classical soul that is not only gorgeous by its own aesthetic right, but near-hauntingly complimentary to the atmosphere, which is generally driven by quietness. Being dryly underexploratory, this film doesn't plays with Hart's score too much as a key artistic compliment to atmosphere, which is mostly powered by a visual style that cinematographer Bradford Young anchors with consistent handsomeness, with stunningly well-realized moments in the celebration of hypnotically warm emphasis on slightly gritting lighting which sells the southern gothic feel of this art drama, and is just plain beautiful on its own. Stylistically, the film is pretty outstanding, - particularly with its remarkable visual style - so much so that style does a lot to sustain your investment through all of the faults in substance, which, in all fairness, is still worthy to a certain degree. This story concept is unevenly approached and familiar, as well as limited with its meat, yet it remains worthy, with the heart of romantic drama and the grit of slow-burn thriller, both of which are often sold by highlights in direction by David Lowery that utilizes anything from style to effective moments in atmosphere to compel. Needless to say, there's not as much consistency in assurance to the newcoming Lowery's efforts as there probably should be, carrying quite a few storytelling issues to undercut kick in a lot of ways, yet Lowery's offscreen performance still sustains enough inspiration to endear and sometimes grip, even if it's not as consistent with effectiveness as the inspired onscreen performances. Yes, even the considerable deal of acting potential here is limited, but this strong cast still fails only at disappointing, as there is convincing chemistry and portrayals across the board, especially when it comes to the leads, with Casey Affleck being subtly intense as a man on the run from the law, to a beloved family that he could very well lose, while Rooney Mara proves to be subtly layered in her endearing portrayal of an outlaw's lover whose life finds itself thrown in all sorts of direction when old and potentially new romances drawn closer to clashing. This thriller isn't quite thrilling enough to provide this cast the opportunity to really shine, but most everyone is quite good, if not strong, and that's enough to make the onscreen inspiration pretty key as a compliment to the offscreen inspiration which keeps the final product endearing, no matter how much effectiveness goes limited.

When it's all said and done, the narrative is underdeveloped, formulaic and even limited in meat, whose limitations go further stressed by an unevenness in pacing and style, and a consistency in overambition that give you plenty of time and opportunities to soak up the shortcomings that prove to be just enough to drive the final product into underwhelmingness, challenged enough by excellent score work, outstanding cinematography, generally reasonably inspired storytelling and solid acting to make "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" an almost lyrical art drama that endears, regardless of its flaws.

2.5/5 - Fair
Super Reviewer
June 19, 2013
I thought the film was so so. It felt like they were trying to copy the styles of Terrence Malik or John Sayles in this movie. It reminded me of movies like A Perfect World, Bonnie and Clyde, Lone Star, Oh Brother Where Aret Though, and Brothers. The film was a bit predictable. I didn't think the editing on the film was good. The pacing was off. Some scenes were too slow.

Casey Affleck was good here. I like when he plays roles like this one as well as Assassination of Jessie James and Killer Inside Me. I still think his best role was in the Killer Inside Me. Rooney Mara was ok, but I think another actress in that role would have done a better job. I believe Natalie Portman would have nailed the role. Mara has no on screen chemistry with Affleck, in my opinion. Ben Foster is great in his role.

Overall, the film is worth checking out for the performances in it.
Super Reviewer
½ December 22, 2013
What I really liked about this movie, aside from the title not really making much since to me, was the period. Set in the 1970's in a small Texas town in the Hill Country, Saints has good enough acting and a conventional enough plot to make up for the disjointed scenes. Mara, Affleck, Foster and Carradine really sink themselves into these country roles. The whole love story didn't resonate as much because it was briefly skimmed over in the first 10 minutes of the film, but throughout the film, there's a certain foreboding that builds leading to a decent payoff. The reason it gets the average score is because it feels more of a copy from other films of the genre without doing much to separate itself other than some poetic direction.
Super Reviewer
½ October 17, 2013
It comes as no surprise that Ain't Them Bodies Saints writer/director Lowery was on hand to help edit together Shane Carruth's distractingly existential but equally beautiful Upstream Color, and it's pretty clear these young directors owe much of their visual palette and narrative pacing from the likes of Terrance Malick. Carruth struggled to make his story accessible, but here Lowery uses familiar, and very welcome, character archetypes to anchor his sweeping romance. Credit to his incredible writing; he crafts a narrative that's much grander than he allows his film to be, despite being framed in Malick-esque cinematic posturing. Thankfully though, this is just used to punctuate the film rather than make them the distracting focus of his feature like his contemporaries; the result is perfectly balanced and equally stunning. Like his keen visual eye, Lowery has also done wonders in finding his three leads. Mara continues to impress, giving depth and dimension to the characters she plays, and her Ruth is no different. Her performance is subtle, but she give it substance. Affleck and Foster are also both terrific. Both are given far less to work with; their dialogue is sparse, Affleck often feels like a mere catalyst for the plot than an actual character with depth. Foster fares better in these stakes, but they are both still excellent considering. It may be light on plot, but Lowery keeps the film moving at a brisk pace for a film that is very much set on slow-burn. It strikes the perfect balance of visual beauty and accessible narrative structure to make for an engaging, emotional, cinematic experience that won't leave you thinking you wasted away an hour and a half of your life.
Super Reviewer
½ January 30, 2013
Highlighted with three of best performances this year, "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" takes a minimal storyline and creates an authentic and emotion-filled canvas for these young and bright actors to paint this heart-wrenching drama with their God-given talents. Casey Affleck has proved time and time again that he is an actor to be watched, delivering award-worthy performances around every corner, taking on the richest of characters and bringing his unique persona to each of them. This goes for his embodiment of the character Bob Muldoon in this film as well, a man who takes the blame for his wife when she shoots a police officer and goes to jail, while she gives birth to their child and lives on the fringe, wondering if he'll come back to her. Played by the stellar Rooney Mara, Ruth is a torn character. On one hand, she has the love of her life in jail, who took the fall for her and who she now sees in the eyes of her daughter as she reads her to stories in bed or sings her to sleep. On the other hand, local police officer, Patrick Wheeler, played by the always talented Ben Foster, is showing a kindness to her that she's never experienced. When Bob escapes from jail, the question of how he'll return for Ruth and whether she'll actually go with him becomes the driving force of the plot. Every performance in David Lowery's film is multi-layered and executed to a level of brilliance unbeknown to me by just seeing the trailer. Often creating the mood of Western, "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" escapes the bonds of similar films while not having to adhere to any "based on a true story" moniker, creating a truly original story matching the caliber of classics like "Bonnie & Clyde" or "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance".
October 30, 2015
Much to admire but Lowery spends so much effort on setting a Malick/New Hollywood mood, the purpose and meaning get left behind in pursuit of imitation.
December 4, 2013
There is something here in this film that is developed and carries some weight. The emotions that are spread out from the story shine through cracks and take some effect. The acting of Casey Affleck as Bob and Rooney Mara as Ruth is genuine throughout a great portion of the film. However I did feel that as the story precedes the story unwinds in ways that are relatively predictable causing the viewer to be pulled out and away from the emotional connection the story has been building. Even as we get to know the character of Bob as a loving and determined man, even naive, we find he is not an intelligent man and that too is fine, the story does not build a dynamic strong enough as the material could.
This film is not a bad one by any means as its production teams did excellent work and the editing is smooth and absorbing. The music I felt was also very beautiful and did well to set a tone that complimented the high contrast sepia tone color pallet. The story also is not a bad one though it suffers in the subplots and the under development of certain moments and characters which keeps the film from being great. Structurally moments could have been reconstructed to be more gripping. I would be interested in seeing more of what this writer director David Lowery can do.
½ July 1, 2014
Overall it really delivered. Had a rather fresh feel to it for a crime drama. I'm a big fan of Casey and he once again is a sharp edge actor.
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