Writer-director David Lowery originally thought Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, which is now playing at the Cedar Lee Theatre, would be an action movie. But once he started killing off his characters, he realized he needed to change course. So he set the script aside.
“When I picked up the script again, I recalibrated and decided to do a story that was entirely about the aftermath of the action and the consequences and everything that happened after the last scene in the movie, basically,” he says. “I started the movie where most movies normally end and just went from there.”
The film centers on Bob (Casey Affleck), who’s been sent to prison and left behind his pregnant wife Ruth (Rooney Mara). When Bob escapes from prison, the local sheriff Patrick (Ben Foster), who has befriended Ruth, starts keeping an eye on her in anticipation of Bob’s return.
Patrick is the most likeable character in the film and Foster, who usually plays much more intensely extroverted characters, brought a lot to the role and played the soft-spoken man with much more earnestness than the script required.
“When I met Ben, I noticed he was a very kind and gentle person,” says Lowery. “I wanted him to be someone with a strong sense of decency. He’s a genuinely good person. It was exciting to get to let Ben stretch those muscles. He made the character in to a real person. He took a simple character and turned him into an incredibly complex human being. Initially, I resisted because it wasn’t what I was writing. But he demonstrated through his immense care and professionalism and performance showed exactly why he was right in this regard.”
The slow-moving film won’t be mistaken for an action flick, but is a rather good character study. And the beautiful shots of the Texas landscape give it a particularly strong visual dimension too.
“ I live in Texas and grew up there for the most part. It has a singular identity it informs whatever happens there,” says Lowery. “It’s one of those rare geographic places. I wanted to make a film that was very intimate but I wanted it to feel epic. If you take an outlaw and put him in Texas, he almost automatically attains an almost legendary status because of the state and want it represents. I want to represent the landscape that I know. That makes sense to me. That’s what I see when I look out my window. Not literally, because I live in the city but I can drive 10 minutes and be in the world in which this movie takes place. That’s important to me. I like to tell stories that are from a place that I’m familiar with.”