I’ve been excited to see Ain’t Them Bodies Saints since the early buzz at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The script was developed at the Sundance Lab (the Lab also lent a hand in helping get it made) and you can tell that there was some real thought put into the writing as well as developing a distinct vision. It’s clear early into the film that writer/director David Lowery is a big fan of Terrence Malick and Badlands in particular, but that’s always going to be a compliment in my book. The film is beautifully shot and moves at a deliberate pace with plenty of space within the narrative left to impression. The film begins with the two lead characters (Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck) being caught and arrested for armed robbery. The pair of soon-to-be parents are split when Affleck’s character takes the fall and faces a 20 year prison sentence. Starting at this point in the story gives the movie a nice twist on a fairly familiar story and also allows for the introduction of Ben Foster’s character – a shy, overly polite, Texas sheriff. Foster has quickly become one of my favorite actors and he continues to impress here as he goes through a series of shifting emotional stances with convincing clarity. Rooney Mara is also excellent in her portrayal of a mother who clearly enjoys her freedom but has never forgotten the man that gave it to her. Affleck’s character, with his single-minded vision to reunite with his woman and their daughter at any cost, seems destined for a dark fate and he carries that weight well. You get the sense that even he knows this isn’t going to work out how he wants it to. However strong that impression may be the movie plays out with a series of small twists that raise the dramatic stakes and keep audiences invested. I found Saints to be a smart, well-executed film carried by a talented cast and crew. I’ll certainly be curious to see what Lowery works on next.