Bob (Affleck) and Ruth (Mara) are young and in love. With a baby on the way Bob knows he needs to provide for his young family. So he and a buddy pull off a robbery that goes wrong. Soon, he, Ruth and the buddy find themselves surrounded by the local law and begin exchanging bullets. Bob’s buddy is killed but Ruth, with the deadly eye of Annie Oakley, shoots Deputy Wheeler (Ben Foster). Realizing they have no chance Bob surrenders, telling authorities that he forced Ruth to be with him. Bob is sent to prison while Ruth is left behind to raise their daughter. Sounds like a folk song, doesn’t it?
Beautifully presented and skillfully acted, “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” is a small, solid drama featuring strong performances and picture post card photography. The story picks up several years after the shootout. Bob has escaped from prison with the intent on returning home to finally lay eyes on his daughter. Ruth has settled into a home directly across the street from the mysterious Skerritt (Carradine), who is very familiar with Bob and Ruth. His son was the buddy that didn’t make it. Deputy Wheeler has also taken an interest in Ruth and her daughter. Perhaps it’s because he’s kind hearted and feels sorry for the situation. Or maybe he wants to replace Bob. Foster, normally jumpy and excitable in such films as “3:10 to Yuma” and “The Mechanic,” is anything but here. His performance is spot on, often saying more with an expression then with words. Affleck, who has grown from the goofy tag-along in “Good Will Hunting” into an Oscar-nominee, is the perfect choice for Bob. Tall and lanky, with a Texas drawl, he is a man on a mission and he won’t stop until he finishes. Mara is just as good, having to balance what’s best for her daughter against what she wants out of life.
Technically the film is outstanding. Taking a page from the Terrence Malick handbook, writer/director Lowery fills the screen with lush images of the countryside populated with strong characters. Much credit must also go to cinematographer Bradford Young as well as composer Daniel Hart, whose score is the perfect accompaniment in telling the on-screen story. Just like a folk song.