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IFC Films
Rooney Mara stars in “Ain’t Them Bodies Saint,” which opens locally today.

Movie Review: Talented actors adrift in story

‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’

The chief asset of “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” is Rooney Mara, who gets more interesting with every movie. What’s emerging is that Mara is nothing like the way she looks, so that you get the low voice, dark attitude and hint of a turbulent inner life – combined with a girlish, lyrical appearance. It’s from such contrasts that movie stars are born, and it’s through such contrasts that a story such as “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” becomes possible and believable.

Early in the movie, she and her outlaw husband (Casey Affleck), living in the middle of nowhere, are in a shootout with the police, and she wounds the town’s main cop. The husband takes the rap for her and goes to jail, and she gets off and gives birth to a daughter. No one knows her secret.

A few years later, the little girl is a toddler and the husband breaks out of prison, hoping to reunite with his wife and set eyes on the child he’s never met. But, of course, the wife’s house is the first place the cops will look, so there are complications.

The film, written and directed by David Lowery, has a depressed yet ominous air, almost as though it were being remembered from within a dream. This atmosphere keeps the audience on its toes, and so does the fact that all three principals – Mara and Affleck, but also Ben Foster, as the town’s police officer – seem capable of doing anything, of going from calm to rampage in a matter of seconds. This builds up a level of expectation – not of violence, necessarily, but of something dramatic.

But the tone never changes. Scenes aren’t inflected, and when the end comes, it registers, but without much impact. Despite actors like these, who could have taken us anywhere and made us accept almost anything, “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” just drifts off into its own melancholic haze.