"Blue Ruin" is almost too good to be a festival film. It's a Coen-esque revenge film with a color palette that is deliberate and expansive. When the main character drops something crucial to his escape early on in the film, every viewer will know that they are in for one heck of a ride. And what a ride it is.
When the craziness begins, the lead is living out of his beat up, rusty Pontiac Boneville(of course, the vehicle is blue). Dwight(Macon Blair) finds sustenance from the trash collected from an East Coast boardwalk. He 'borrows' a tub or two when folks aren't home. One morning, a police officer taps on his car window, waking him. But she's not there to haul him down to the station.
The viewer learns that Dwight has basically been down in the dumps since his parents were murdered, and the man who committed the crime is about to leave prison on a technicality. A switch seems to flip inside Dwight almost instantly. He steals what he needs to get his car operable(and a weapon as well), and he heads towards the prison, hell-bent on revenge.
For the next hour and a half, "Blue Ruin" puts Dwight through the ringer, often as a consequence of his own choices. The way writer/director Jeremy Saulnier torments his character is very reminiscent of a Coen Brothers' film(in the Q & A after the screening, Saulnier cited the directors as an influence). But Saulnier almost goes a step further, grounding the film in a setting far closer to reality. And the result is something of brilliance. And as if writing and directing weren't enough, Saulnier also photographed the film. A cinematographer by trade, Saulnier incorporates a lot of blue tone early, in everything from the scenery to the shadows. This blue slowly gives way to a much muddier, darker palette as the film progresses(and the character's situation regresses).
"Blue Ruin" is now under the RADiUSTWC umbrella(which also released the recent documentary "Inequality For All"), so it appears that a theatrical release is imminent. But that is no reason to put off seeing the film this weekend. "Blue Ruin" should hold its own as one of the best films at this year's Chicago International Film Festival, and it has a real chance of taking home an award in the main competition. "Blue Ruin" isn't just one of the best films at the Chicago fest; it's one of the best films this reviewer has seen all year.
"Blue Ruin" screens for a second and final time on Sunday at 8:15pm.