ⓘ Aint Them Bodies Saints
Aint Them Bodies Saints is a 2013 American romantic crime drama film written and directed by David Lowery. The film stars Casey Affleck as Bob Muldoon, Rooney Mara as Ruth Guthrie and Ben Foster as Patrick Wheeler. Bob and Ruth are a couple who become involved in criminal activities and are caught, with Bob taking the blame and going to prison. The film follows the events after the criminal activities as Ruth gives birth to their daughter, and the two live comfortably. When the child is nearly four, Bob escapes from jail and goes looking to reconnect with his family.
The film debuted at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Cinematography Award in the U.S. Dramatic Category and got nominated for the Grand Jury Prize. It was selected to compete in the International Critics Week section at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. It was released on August 16, 2013, by IFC Films.
The film received positive reviews overall, with critics praising its original take on the Bonnie and Clyde archetype, and commending its style and western iconography influences. It garnered numerous critical awards and nominations and was listed in the top ten films of 2013 by many domestic and international film publications, but ultimately under-performed at the box office.
Ruth Guthrie is walking across a field and is followed by Bob Muldoon, who tries to dissuade Ruth from leaving him to return to her mothers. Ruth is adamant and reveals that she is angry because Bob told Freddy that he was going to strike out on his own. Bob says this isnt the case. Ruth reveals she is pregnant, and they reconcile.
Later, Bob and Freddy commit a crime while Ruth waits in the getaway car. The police, including Patrick Wheeler, pursues them. A gunfight leaves their accomplice Freddy fatally shot and Ruth shooting Patrick. Bob takes the fall for shooting Patrick and the crime committed earlier so Ruth can avoid jail. Bob and Ruth surrender their weapons. They are apprehended and Bob jailed. Ruth tells Skerrit, Freddys father, that she is going to wait for Bob. Bob writes several letters from jail, promising Ruth to be back with her and their child. Ruth gives birth to their daughter, Sylvie.
Years pass. Ruth and Sylvie live a normal life in the small town of Meridian, Texas. Patrick, who does not know it was Ruth that actually shot him, notices Ruth and Sylvie around town, but Ruth avoids any contact with him. One day, Patrick makes a visit to Ruths residence and tells her that Bob has escaped from prison. The local detective questions Ruth as to Bobs whereabouts, and Ruth tells him that Bob has not come to visit her. Meanwhile, Bob is traversing Missouri to escape the authorities. He makes it to Texas and obtains help from his friend Sweetie. Meanwhile, three bounty hunters, led by an individual called Bear, visit Skerrits hardware store and make general inquiries about the town.
Patrick visits Ruth to return her letters the police looked over after Bob escaped. He tells her that she should move to a safer place, which Ruth takes to mean as until Bob is caught. Bob visits Skerrit at his hardware store, where Skerritt tells him there are many people who want him dead and that Bob needs to stay away from Ruth and Sylvie. Patrick visits Sweeties establishment, asking if he has seen Bob. As they go upstairs, Bob narrowly escapes but leaves behind a photo of Ruth and Sylvie.
On the day of Sylvies birthday party, Patrick gives Sylvie a guitar. While talking with Sylvie at the party, Patrick learns that Ruth has been planning a trip with Sylvie. Bob arrives at the house but notices Patrick and subsequently leaves. Bob returns to the original shootout location and encounters the bounty hunters. They shoot at him, and he kills one during a struggle, but he is also seriously wounded. He gets away but is chased by the third. Bob coerces a driver, Will Rami Malek, to drive him back to Ruths house. Will tries to tell Bob that he should be taken to a hospital but Bob refuses, insisting to be taken to Ruths house.
Sylvie wakes up to find her mother sleeping on the sofa in Patricks arms. They are startled by gunshots outside. Patrick runs out to investigate and finds the third bounty hunter in a shootout with Skerrit. Patrick shoots the bounty hunter dead and finds that Skerrit is fatally wounded. Ruth and Sylvie are taken to the police station for questioning and safekeeping. When Patrick returns them to their home, they find the front door open and Patrick goes in to investigate, finding a grievously wounded Bob. Ruth follows Patrick into the house and stops Patrick from approaching Bob. Ruth tends to Bob, and Sylvie enters to see her father dying in the arms of her mother. Patrick takes Sylvie back outside and comforts her, while her parents exchange a few last words.
2.1. Production Concept
David Lowery began writing the film in 2009 while on the festival circuit promoting his film St. Nick. At the time he was only able to think of a concept of a man breaking out of prison. What attracted him to the story was the thought of writing an action movie after having done a very quiet movie like St. Nick. However, he could not think of a compelling way to tell the story based on the concept so he left it.
2.2. Production Script
Lowery revisited the concept in 2011, where he added more ideas to his original concept. His initial draft took 6 months to write, and he had planned to shoot the film immediately after writing. However, production was delayed since Lowery and his production partners submitted the script to the Sundance Institute Producing Lab, in early summer 2011. The institute encouraged Lowery to submit the script to their screenwriters lab. In December 2011, It was revealed that Sundance had selected a screenplay by David Lowery as one of 12 projects for its annual January Screenwriters Lab. Lowery worked with the Sundance Lab Artistic Director Scott Frank and his associates to develop the script.
Lowery wanted to capture the feeling of the actions and write a script based on that in the vein of 1960s and 1970s movies and folk songs. He said specifically that he wanted to "make a movie that felt like a folk song". Working on this concept, he thought about American folk mythology dealing with outlaws, developing into an outlaw who broke out of prison, then set in place the reason for the breakout being his wife and living in Texas he decided the setting would be Texas.
The scripts title, which Lowery also chose to evoke the feeling of a folk song, is based on his mishearing the lyrics of a country song a friend played for him, and is unrelated to the plot or characters.
2.3. Production Financing and initial production
After the initial script had been written, Lowery and his producers had a start date for the production. But they were advised by producers such as Jay Van Hoy, Lars Knudsen and Amy Kaufman to aim for a bigger production, with Lowery being told Doing the micro budget version is a great plan B, and you know you can do that, but why dont you just spend a little bit of time formulating a new plan A and see if you can make it for just a little bit bigger.
In April 2012, Lowery Officially announced that he had written a contemporary story in the vein of Bonnie And Clyde and that he would direct the film, named Aint Them Bodies Saints. James Johnston, Toby Halbrooks, Amy Kaufman, Lars Knudsen and Jay Van Hoy were announced as the producers, with WME and WME Global handling representation for the film, and Evolution Independents Cassian Elwes handling the financing of the film. Sailor Bear, Parts & Labor, Paradox Entertainment Lagniappe Films and Evolution Independent assumed primary production duties for the film. In July, 2012 it was confirmed that the financing structure had been finalized with Evolution Independent, Paradox Entertainment and Lagniappe.
2.4. Production Casting
Casting began while Lowery was participating in the Sundance Institute Writer Lab sessions in January 2012. The script for the film was being circulated amongst various talent agencies and Lowery was being contacted by Actors and Actresses wanting to audition for the role, two of those actors being Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck. Speaking on the casting of Mara and Affleck, Lowery cited their quality of being timeless in their own way as the main reason he cast them. Lowery cast Ben Foster after having met him, and noted that he felt that Bens natural qualities were exactly what his character needed.
In April, 2012 Rooney Mara, Ben Foster and Casey Affleck were announced as the principal cast for the film. In July, 2012 it was reported that Nate Parker had joined the cast of the film, with no specific details given as to his role. On 24 July 2012 it was announced that Keith Carradine had joined the cast just as principal photography began. In November, 2012 Rami Malek announced on his Facebook page that he would appear in the film as Will. Malek had auditioned for the role of Sweetie, but the role went to Nate Parker, however, Lowery was so impressed with his audition tape he asked him to play a small role at the end of the film. In early December 2012 Charles Baker announced on his Twitter that he would appear in the film. but Lowery revealed he had met with him before production and decided he would appear in some capacity.
Rooney Mara cited the script as the main reason for why she accepted the role, saying that it felt right, and Casey Affleck cited his meeting with and instincts about Lowery as a director as the reason he accepted the role. Nate Parker also cited the script as the main reason he joined the cast, describing it as raw and emotional, but furthermore went on to state that the opportunity to work with the D.P Bradford Young was also a motivating factor.
2.5. Production Crew
Bradford Young joined the crew of the film after being recommended by one of Lowerys producers who had worked with Young on a film called Mother of George. Lowery familiarized himself with Youngs work, describing it as beautiful and incredibly rich and varied, and immediately set up a meeting, and proceeded to hire Young as the cinematographer for the project as a result of that meeting.
Daniel Hart Joined the crew of the film as the composer in December 2012. This was Harts first foray into scoring a feature film. Hart had recently worked with Lowery on his 2011 short film Pioneer, and was given the script for Aint Them Bodies Saints in December 2012. Hart cited his previous experience in providing sound for Lowerys 2009 short St.Nick and 2011s Pioneer as the reasons for him scoring Aint Them Bodies Saints, as he felt the film was the right fit for another collaboration.
Craig McKay, who previously edited The Silence of the Lambs and 1993s Philadelphia, joined the crew as an editor, along with Jane Rizzo, who had previously edited the critically acclaimed 2012 film Compliance. Lowery noted that this was the first time he had hired an editor.
Veteran Casting Director Avy Kaufman and native specialist Texas casting director Vicky Boone handled the casting of the non-main characters in the film. Production Designer Jade Healy joined the crew in April 2012. Skywalker Sound handled the sound recording and management of the film.
2.6. Production Shooting and production schedule
Filming began on July 9, 2012, in Shreveport, Louisiana. The main reason for basing the primary filming in Louisiana was huge tax incentives on offer. The rest of the scenes were filmed on location in Meridian, Texas, and Austin, Texas. The film was not shot in chronological order but rather in a sequenced manner focusing on each of the primary actors. Affleck filmed his scenes first and then shooting moved to filming the scenes in which Affleck and Mara are together, with Maras scenes being shot last. The conditions were very hot and humid, reaching 103 degrees most days, which fit with the tone of the movie.
The actors had no traditional rehearsal times, but instead worked using an outline of the script as they filmed. Mara and Affleck did not spend much time shooting together and Mara felt it worked since fit in with the story of the film since for most of the film Marass and Afflecks characters do not see each other for a long period of time. Lowery encouraged a collaborative effort in regard to how his actors interpreted the script and the behavior of their characters, as long as it stayed true to their elements. Ben Foster confirmed this approach to the acting for the film, stating that "nothing was nailed down on paper" and that he had to "fill in the cracks" himself before shooting the scenes. In the scenes in which Mara acts as a mother to the two child actresses, Mara took over the direction of their scenes in order to get more authenticity into the scenes.
However, Lowery did not follow the same approach in terms of the camera angles and the shooting frames and positions he would use. Every camera angle and position was chosen and prepared beforehand. Although Lowery has professed his admiration for films that captured random shots and moments of beauty in addition to telling a narrative, he wanted this film to be one that conveyed a message with every shot and where every scene had a significant meaning. The number of takes was limited to four or five per scene.
Filming wrapped up on August 15, 2012.
2.7. Production Visual style and production design
The film was shot on 35mm film using the ARRICAM LT and Panavision XL. Most of the film was shot on Cooke S4 lenses and Low Con 1 and Low Con 2 filters in order to achieve the desired look. Cinematographer Bradley Young said he wanted to witness to the films form take shape instead of having to make it look a certain way in post-production, and felt 35mm allowed him to add the energy of the film into the negative directly. The film does not give a time period for its setting, but reviewers have described it as seemingly dating to the 1960s or 70s.
Lowery did not want to "spoon feed" the audience who would watch the film, as he noted he despises being "spoon fed" himself. Lowery aimed to subtly let the audience know what to pay attention to using visual cues and carefully placed objects.
Lowery and Young encountered problems in acquiring their desired look due to an agreement with their bond company, who wouldnt allow extensive decay on the negative. They circumvented the problem by underexposing the film at unconventional levels, and by sliding an ND9 in front of the camera. Lowery and Young abided by a strict rule that they would only use we available light from the period of the film, and whatever sources there were, they could not vibrate; they had to burn, which narrowed them down to tungsten/incandescent lights.
While working on the visual style with Bradford Young, Lowery took inspiration from movies such as Vilmos Zsigmonds work on McCabe & Mrs. Miller and Heavens Gate, utilizing the effects used to make the images "dirty", as well as Robert Elswits work on There Will Be Blood. To guide the darkness of the images they would use, they turned to the work of Harris Savides.
Lowery worked with Jade Healy to develop the production design for the film. He, Healy, and Young looked over archives of still photos and whittled them away to come up with a specific look and palette for the film. Healy had to also work on providing the right lighting for the period the film was in, and would subsequently bring in lamps and lamp shades, warmer or lighter, based on Lowery and Youngs tastes.
2.8. Production Editing
When editing, Lowery focused on what happened rather than how it happened, considering whats happening in the scene to be more important than how it happened, and choosing the cuts accordingly. Upon commencing the editing process for the film, he found that he already had 80% of the planned shots ready and in sequence but had to reconcile the other 20% that he was unsure of.
Even so, Lowery found the editing phase of the film to be a tough process and more arduous than he had anticipated. Usually a lone editor, Lowery felt the scope of the film required additional editors, and he brought on Craig McKay and Jane Rizzo to work with him. However, he found the experience to be a negative one and stated If I could go back again, would I edit the movie myself? Yes I would.
After the Sundance Film festival screening, the film was further edited upon suggestion by Harvey Weinstein, who had acquired the international distribution rights for the film. Lowery has stated that the changes were not foisted upon him, but rather he agreed with them and felt that the pre-Sundance editing process had been too rushed, and went on to say that even so, the film apparently hasnt been drastically reshaped.
2.9. Production Sound and music
Lowery gave the script of the film to Hart in the summer of 2012. They discussed what kind of sounds and instrumentation Lowery had in mind for the film, and in principle decided on the logistics for composing the film. For the sound, Hart had in mind a small string ensemble, low brass and atmospheric drones. Hart laid the foundation for the sound of the film when scoring the montage in which Bob goes to prison and Ruth gives birth to their baby. The piece Hart wrote for that scene ended up including all the instrumentation heard throughout the film: strings, brass, mandolin, cimbalom, droning banjo, and percussion.
The banjo sound heard throughout the film was intentional. Hart claims its sole purpose is to ring and drone continuously in an attempt to create a slightly unsettling feeling. 60% of the score was scored at Harts home studio, where most of the banjo, mandolin, handclaps, guitar, and solo violins were recorded. The string sections, brass, and drum kit were recorded at songwriter Curtis Heaths home studio. Heath also wrote some the original songs for the score. The score was mixed at Public Hi-Fi in Austin, Texas.
3.1. Distribution and release Film festival circuit run
Aint Them Bodies Saints had its premiere on the festival circuit on January 20, 2013, at the Sundance Film Festival, where it competed for the US Prizes in the Grand Jury, Audience, Screenwriting, Directing, Cinematography and Editing awards for the dramatic sections of each category. The film went on to be screened at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival during the International Critics Week selection, as well as having a special screening. On May 31, 2013, the film screened at the 2013 Seattle Film Festival. On June 15, 2013, it screened at the Los Angeles Film Festival, followed by successive showings at the BAMCinemaFest on June 19 and at the Provincetown Film Festival on June 20. The final stateside film festival screenings of the film took place on June 30, 2013, at the Nantucket Film Festival and the Maine International Film Festival on July 14, 2013.
The film then started gaining traction on the international film festival stage, having a screening at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival on July 3, 2013. The film then screened at the Munich International Film Festival and then the Jerusalem Film Festival on July 5, where it was screened as a must-see presentation. It then screened at the Deauville American Film Festival on 6 September 2013. and the Athens Film Festival on 28 September 2013. The film screened at the Amsterdam Film Week on 29 October 2013, and the Leiden International Film Festival on the 2 November 2013. The final festival showing for the film happened on November 12, 2013, at the Stockholm International Film Festival.
3.2. Distribution and release Distribution rights, marketing and theatrical run
On January 24, 2013, it was announced that IFC, Sony Pictures Classics, Roadside Attractions, Bob Berneys revived Picturehouse and Magnolia Pictures were in discussions for the US distribution rights. On January 25 it was announced that Cassian Elwes and WME Globals Graham Taylor and Alexis Garcia closed a deal with IFC Films Arianna Bocco worth a reported $1.000.000 for the US distribution rights. IFC confirmed on January 25 that they had acquired the North American domestic rights. It was announced that The Weinstein Company acquired the International Distribution rights shortly after.
The film had its domestic limited release in the United States on August 16, 2013, opening in three theatres. At its peak it was showing at 44 theatres in the US. It had its international theatre premiere on September 5, 2013, in Israel, where the name had to be changed to Neehavim mihoutz lahok because of translation issues, shortly followed by the UK and Ireland releases on September 6. The film was released in France on September 28 with the title Les amants du Texas, with the Greece where again due to title issues it was changed to Meine dipla mou and the Singapore premieres following on October 24. The Belgium premiere happened on November 6, with the Swedish and Turkish premieres taking place on November 6, where again the names were changed to A Texas Love Story in Turkish: Olumsuz Ask. The Weinstein Company decided to release the film in certain territories during 2014, and the film was subsequently had its final European premieres on 20 March 2014 and 9 May 2014 in the Netherlands and Spain En un lugar sin ley respectively. The film had its Japan premiere on March 29 and in Brazil as Amor Fora da Lei on July 10, 2014.
4.1. Reception Critical reception
The film has received mostly positive reviews, and holds a 79% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 115 reviews, with 91 fresh ratings and 24 rotten ratings, attaining a score of 7.2/10. The general consensus is "While conventional in plot, Aint Them Bodies Saints is a visually poetic film that pays homage to the New Hollywood directors of the 1970s and promises big things from director David Lowery." Metacritic gave the film a weighted average of 74, which converts to a B- on its scale of ratings, indicating generally favorable reviews.
Positive reviews of the movie commented in particular on its visual qualities. Austin Trunick of Under the Radar wrote that, "the though Lowery is skillful with dialogue, there are ways he ties the events together that are knotty. The first is the most problematic. Though a natural fall guy is right at their feet, felled by the cops and long past complaining about issues like loyalty and betrayal, Bob grabs the gun that shot the sheriff. Lowery is intent that the couple will grapple with the idea of responsibility, whatever frustrations with logic that might pose for the rest of us." A.A Dowd of The A.V. Club gave the film a C+, criticizing Lowery for being too eager to emulate Malick, maintaining that "upstart David Lowery mimics the mythic methodology of his revered elder, drowning the sparse tale of an on-the-run convict and his lonely babys mama in lots of dreamy, magic-hour atmosphere."
Negative reviews focused on the films ostensible preference of style over substance, with Slant Magazine s Nick McCarthy giving the film a score of 2.5 out of 4, pointing out that "director David Lowery, with the aide of Bradford Youngs sublime cinematography, goes to great lengths to stylistically evoke the emotionally complex nature of the characters forlornness, but the films highly calculated beauty suffocates rather than elevates the storys emotional underpinnings." He also questioned the portrayal of motherhood in the film, accusing Maras character of being "uninterestingly flattened into a waiting damsel in distress." A. O. Scott of The New York Times, in a negative review of the movie, wrote that "Authenticity is rarely a fair standard for judging movies, which always depend on overt and invisible artifice. But this films longing for just that quality - for a simple, elemental truth that will be both specific to its time and place and ripe with deeper meanings - is precisely what makes it unconvincing." Mick Laselle of the San Francisco Times accused the film of being self-indulgent, commenting "the tone never changes. Scenes arent 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, Aint Them Bodies Saints just drifts off into its own melancholic haze."
Critics drew extensive comparisons to the work of Terrence Malick, with Bradshaw of The Guardian opining that "theres a mix here of early and late Malick, something of Badlands and also To the Wonder: it looks derivative, with the familiar lens flare and sunset wash. But if it is a homage, this is an intelligent and accomplished one, a conscientious matching-up of style and substance. David Gritten of The Daily Telegraph also said the Malick influences worked in the film, commenting "Lowerys opening scenes could even serve as the start of an imagined sequel to Terrence Malicks 1973 classic Badlands. But Aint Them Bodies Saints is no Malick homage. Thats a relief: there are quite enough already. Indeed, far from dwelling on transcendence, as Malick does, Lowerys film has a solid, grounded storyline, rooted in crime thrillers and film noir tradition. Christy Lemire of RogerEbert.com also compared him to Malick, in a positive vein, writing that "the comparisons to Terrence Malick are obvious and many - and a well-deserved compliment - for David Lowerys drama Aint Them Bodies Saints. The setting of 1970s Texas, the impressionistic wisps of memory, the quiet naturalism of warm sunlight and the dusky magic-hour melancholy - theyre all there, all those signatures that are reminiscent of the master filmmaker." Some critics were less positively inclined towards the films intimations of Malicks artistry, with Antoina Quirke of the Financial Times writing that "there is a completely numbing sense that this really is a lost Terrence Malick - that this was done a long time ago, and that cinemas cupboards are empty and there is no new stuff to make in a new way." A. A. Dowd of the A.V Club maintained that "Even Malicks lesser works, like this springs To The Wonder, add up to more than the sum of their lyrical parts. They have big ideas, bigger emotions, and a sense of dramatic urgency - all qualities fatally absent from this well-shot but bloodless crime fable. Lowery, it cant be denied, has Malicks moves down pat. Its the Malick touch that eludes him."
4.2. Reception Box office reception
Aint Them Bodies Saints had its US domestic on the weekend of 16–18 August 2013 in 3 theatres, where it made $26.419, ranking at number 58 in the Box office charts. At the end of week ending 22 August the film made $40.921, ending 59th on the box office charts. The second week of the film saw a drastic improvement in commercial reception, recording a 147% increase in weekend box office growth of $65.175, ending the week with a 144% overall increase from the opening week, recording a box office return for the week ending 29 August of $100.005, bringing its total theatrical run to $140.926 from 28 theatres and marking its highest domestic box office ranking of 43. The film continued its improving theatrical performance in its third week by opening in 12 extra theatres to make the total 40 theatres, recording $109.209 in box office revenue, an increase of 9.2% on the previous week, bringing he total to $250.135. in the month of September the film commercial performance started to lag, recording less than $140.000 for the month. The domestic theatric run for the film ended on October 3, with total domestic returns of $396.519.
The films UK opening recorded a $82.190 return, and over the two and half weeks of its theatrical run in the UK it recorded a $192.834 return in total. The films second largest international returns came in France with $112.671, with the third best performing international territory being Belgium with a return of $33.391. In total the film made $634.724, almost twice its domestic performance.
Aint Them Bodies Saints ended its theatrical run having accumulated $1.031.243 in box office receipts. With a budget of close to $4 million this qualifies the film as a box office flop.