Written and directed by David Lowery, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints follows Casey Affleck’s Bob Muldoon as he escapes from prison and embarks on a quest to reunite with his girlfriend (Rooney Mara’s Ruth Guthrie) – with Bob’s efforts consistently stymied by a local cop (Ben Foster’s Patrick Wheeler) with a crush on Ruth. Filmmaker Lowery delivers an often excessively deliberate endeavor that’s clearly been inspired by the work of Terrence Malick, as Ain’t Them Bodies Saints boasts (or suffers from) a dreamy feel that’s reflected in the elliptical editing and lush visuals – with Lowery’s ongoing emphasis on mood over content slowly but surely draining the viewer’s interest. It’s a shame, really, given that the picture does feature a handful of undeniably positive elements, with Lowery’s striking visuals and the stars’ stirring work going a long way towards compensating for a generally momentum-free narrative – although it’s equally apparent that Lowery’s meandering modus operandi proves an ongoing test to one’s patience. And while the film does improve slightly once Affleck’s character begins to plan his way back into Ruth’s life, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints builds to a somewhat endless climactic stretch that is hardly as riveting or heartwrenching as Lowery has surely intended – with the final result a well-made yet mostly ineffective effort from an obviously talented filmmaker (albeit one who desperately needs to find his own voice).
** out of ****