I’m happy to admit that I’m a sucker for Casey Affleck. Even back to the Oceans movies, you’ll struggle to find a poor performance from the younger Affleck brother. And he’s most at home in movies like this.
Bob Muldoon (Affleck) and Ruth Guthrie (Mara) can’t bear to spend a second apart, but when Bob takes the blame for his pregnant wife in a botched heist that left a cop on the ground, leniency was the last thing on the judge’s mind. But after a few years behind bars Bob can’t take any more, and upon breaking out of prison, tears across the Texan hills to reunite with his wife and the daughter he has never met.
While Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is a technical masterclass, it is the performance of the stars that make the movie so encapsulating. Creating a surprise love triangle and encroaching on Bob’s position in his little girl’s life, Ben Foster is fantastic as cop Patrick Wheeler. The entire movie there is a tension simmering beneath the surface, but the fact it so rarely comes to the surface makes the moments of friction so much more powerful when things do kick off.
The next movie that puts Casey Affleck alongside Rooney Mara can’t come soon enough too. The pair sizzle on the screen and you feel every inch of their despair when they are separated at the start of the movie. Bob and Ruth are a couple that you know simply must be, which brings a nail-biting unease as the film moves along.
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is lean, and at 96 minutes nothing not indispensible seems to have been cut, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have heart. The narrative is grounded, tender and charming, mature and intelligent. At times can lack a little bite, but set against the backdrop of the 1970s Texas Hill County, writer/director David Lowery adds so much atmosphere to the picture.
An honest tale of love and desperation from a couple making ends meet, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints might just have been Lowery’s audition for the big leagues. And he nailed it.