David Lowery’s latest film plays almost like a ballad, taking place in an almost dreamlike state of 1970s Texas. One can look at it like a love-letter to a time and place gone by where myths of outlaws and gangsters could still be believed in the manner they are portrayed in the film.
The plot starts off with young lovers Ruth(Rooney Mara) and Bob(Casey Affleck), as they are holed up in their shack after a heist gone wrong, in a gunfight with police. Ruth ends up shooting a young officer, Patrick(Ben Foster) in the chaos. They surrender and Bob takes the blame for the gunfire. He goes to jail, swearing to break out to come get Ruth and their newborn daughter. Cut to about 4 years later, and Bob has broken out, and is on his way home.
The film boasts an impressive cast with wonderful performances across the board. Rooney Mara is a delight, and continues to prove she’s one of the best actresses of her generation. Casey Affleck gives one of his best performances of his career, certainly his best since “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”. Ben Foster is wonderful to watch as always, and begs the question: Why is Ben Foster not in more movies? Keith Carradine delivers a solid performance as well as patriarchal figure Skerritt, portraying him as threatening as he is kind. And Breaking Bad fans will note a scary performance from Charles Baker(Skinny Pete!) as the leader of a trio of men hunting down Bob. Nate Parker is an actor more people need to pay attention to, and he continues to prove his worth as Bob’s loyal friend Sweetie.
David Lowery is a young filmmaker, but it does not show in his direction. He, with the help of DP Bradford Young, create haunting landscapes and a constant dreamy aesthetic for his mythical characters to play upon. Newcomer composer Daniel Hart crafts one of my personal favorite scores of the year. Reminiscent of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’s work, he perfectly compliments the romantic look at this period of history as well as helping the scenes weave together almost seamlessly.
Many will compliment the film, but simply make the comparison that it’s like Terrence Malick’s Badlands and leave it at that. I think it rises above that film-student statement. Yes, it’s clear Lowery has a great love for Malick, but he doesn’t just sit back and expect that love to create the film. He takes those familiar characters and themes and does new and interesting things with them. It’s a very impressive film, and I’m certainly excited to see what the future holds for Lowery.