On Thursday evening, into the early hours of Friday morning, Examiner.com was invited to a special screening of "Ain’t Them Bodies Saints" presented by Rooftop Films, AT&T, and IFC Films. Rooftop Filmmakers’ Fund grantee David Lowery was in attendance at the screening which was held at Queens County Farm. The film hit theaters in New York on limited release on Friday.
Following the screening, David Lowery and producer James M. Johnston were present for a Q & A and an outdoor reception sponsored by Red Stripe Lager and Bulleit Bourbon. Inspired by the film, specialty cocktails that were served included the Texas Tumbler and Bulleit Saint. Bulleit Bourbon has partnered with Rooftop Films to help up-and-coming filmmakers create content that pushes the boundaries of the modern frontier. Their creative entrepreneurial spirit mirrors brand Founder Tom Bulleit’s own story of following his life-long dream to start Bulleit Distilling Co.
While watching "Ain't Them Bodies Saints," I have to admit that at times I was confused: I could have sworn that I was watching a Terrence Malick film. Director David Lowery created a world so filled of beauty and nostalgia, that I only felt while watching "Badlands." And then I'd jump back into reality and realize that, right before my eyes, I'm watching one of the best American films of the year; right before my eyes, I'm witnessing a young director make his mark on the world of cinema. "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" is an experience unlike any from a film released this year.
The film takes place in Texas during the 1970's with Bob Muldoon (Affleck) and Ruth Guthrie (Mara) committing a crime that leads to a shootout at the couples broken down shack. Ruth accidentally shoots a police officer, which leads to Bob standing down and allowing himself to take the heat for Ruth. In one of the most memorable shots in recent memory, Bob and Ruth are being led off in handcuffs, side by side; holding each other’s hands for what could very well be the last time. They whisper something for each other and then they're finally pulled away.
Bob is sent off to prison for a sentence between 25 years to life, while Ruth is home, raising the daughter he may never get to see. Now four years into the future, Ruth and Sylvie live next door to Skerritt (Carradine), who runs the town hardware store and acted as a "father" figure to Ruth and Bob. It's very likely that Skerritt runs the town, as well. As an audience, we never know due to the restrained script from Lowery, which adds to the film in so many ways. We're left guessing when it comes to the past of these complex characters.
It's around this time where Bob breaks out of prison and tries to get back to Ruth and Sylvie and give them the life he's always dreamed of. Sheriff's Deputy Patrick Wheeler (Foster), who was the cop shot during the shootout that day, has entered the lives of both Ruth and Sylvie. We're not sure what he wants with them though...does he just want to get close to Ruth to nab Bob? Or does he actually want to be a part of Ruth and Sylvie's lives?
Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara are absolutely perfect in their roles as Bob and Ruth. Affleck is no stranger to the Western genre, gathering critical acclaim for his portrayal of Robert Ford in "The Assassination of Jesse James." His role as a crook, while smaller this time around, is very similar in the way that each are dreamers and want so much out of their lives even, if it's not realistically possible. Bob Muldoon wants to believe that he's a criminal within the realm of Jesse James, but he's not. And that's something he's unable to accept. His ambitions are romantic, wanting to build a house far away and raising a family, but is that actually possible? Rooney's character doesn't say nearly as much as Affleck's, but she's best when emoting through her steely eyes questioning all the men around her. It's the way she expresses herself physically that we see the inner conflict she's going through.
Everything about "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" is perfect, and that's owed to the vision of David Lowery. He creates a narrative drama that's built through touching monologues and stunning images of Texas farmlands (credit goes to cinematographer Bradford Young). Each sequence throughout the film is poetry, and it tells a tale that we've heard before. But Lowery is able to take the story in a direction that one may not expect, creating a gripping tale of star-crossed lovers that everyone will enjoy.
323 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY
10:45am 1:15 3:25 5:35 7:50 10:00pm
Film Society Lincoln Center - Walter Reade Theater
165 West 65th Street, New York, NY
11:30am 1:55 4:20 6:45 9:15pm
Additional reporting by Joshua Kaye