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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film Reviews - Michael Bodey Twit­ter: @michael­bodey

THERE’S quite a range of art-house of­fer­ings avail­able this week in home en­ter­tain­ment. So why choose the US in­de­pen­dent film Ain’t Them Bod­ies Saints?

Well, I de­vel­oped this thing for Rooney Mara af­ter see­ing her in Steven Soder­bergh’s Side Ef­fects. She was one of those ac­tresses Hol­ly­wood was thrust­ing on us with­out the au­di­ence quite know­ing why. And when she was cast as the lead in the US re­make of The Girl with the Dragon Tat­too, no mat­ter how fine she was in the lead role — and she was very good — the char­ac­ter was too cold to elicit any warmth for Mara the ac­tor.

Soder­bergh’s Hitchock­ian thriller was a rev­e­la­tion for Rooney’s per­for­mance op­po­site Jude Law and Cather­ine Zeta-Jones. She has a pres­ence. And she brings it to Ain’t Them Bod­ies Saints, which it­self is an­other homage.

David Low­ery’s ro­man­tic drama is set in 1970s Texas and stars Mara and Casey Af­fleck as Ruth and Bob, two young lovers on the lam. Bob takes the fall for a heist and goes to jail while Ruth gives birth to their daugh­ter.

If the sim­i­lar­i­ties to Terrence Mal­ick’s Bad­lands weren’t ob­vi­ous from the open­ing scenes, Brad­ford Young’s cine­matog­ra­phy is straight from Mal­ick’s play­book, all tall grasses sway­ing in the golden late-af­ter­noon light and cam­eras sweep­ing around the en­twined bod­ies of two young lovers.

Those open­ing scenes be­tray what will hap­pen. Such deep love will not be de­nied by prison walls. Yet typ­i­cal of Low­ery’s sec­ond fea­ture is the ab­sence of a jail break.

Low­ery’s pac­ing is so Mal­ick there will be noth­ing as gauche as an en­er­getic break­out.

No, we see Bob on the out­side, even­tu­ally telling a col­league the pedes­trian cir­cum­stances of his es­cape, as Ruth and Sher­iff Patrick Wheeler (Ben Fos­ter) pre­pare for his re­turn.

In­cred­i­bly, Low­ery just gets away with the am­bling pace. The film’s beauty is its im­pres­sion­ist style. It cap­tures mo­ments and con­ver­sa­tion, rather than bar­relling along like an old-style western, all guns blaz­ing and jut­ting jaws.

That said, this me­an­der­ing pace is the western’s way in mod­ern cin­ema. If you at­tempt retro train pur­suits and gun fights, you have The Lone Ranger.

Low­ery’s nods to Amer­ica’s cin­e­matic past in­clude the great role for Keith Car­ra­dine, who plays Ruth’s pro­tec­tor. Car­ra­dine played a cow­boy in Robert Alt­man’s 1971 western McCabe & Mrs Miller.

Over­all, it feels a lit­tle too self-con­scious for my lik­ing, but Low­ery has cast well and Mara, Af­fleck and Fos­ter deliver the right notes. Mara, I get her now.

As for the odd ti­tle? It means noth­ing, ap­par­ently. Low­ery mis­heard some song lyrics once and the phrase stuck.

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