Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, the feature debut of editor/cinematographer David Lowery and owner of the year’s most amazing title, is the kind of movie that you can’t talk about without sounding at least a little pretentious. It’s the kind of movie that invites descriptive phrases like “lyrical” and “atmospheric” from those who adore it and “derivative” and “languid” from those who don’t. In short, it’s a Film with a capital “f”; whether that’s a good or bad thing depends on who you are or, more specifically, how partial you are to copious lens flare and long shots.
As it turns out, both descriptions are somewhat true. On the one hand, the story itself, following two young lovers after he takes the blame for a police officer’s death, isn’t anything special; you can clearly see the influence of old-fashioned Westerns and ‘70s-era crime dramas such as Badlands and Bonnie and Clyde, with a sprinkling of Homer’s The Odyssey thrown in for good measure. The film functions more as an homage to those classic genres than as an attempt to subvert them, adhering fairly close to time-honored tropes like that of the enigmatic, morally ambiguous outsider and the steely-eyed lawman (though in this case, the latter figure is represented not by Ben Foster’s kindly police officer but by Keith Carradine’s menacing criminal-turned-guardian). Not a whole lot happens in the movie. Lowery, like a certain reclusive auteur to whom he’s been frequently compared, is more interested in mood than plot or character development.