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A small-town Texas outlaw breaks out of prison to try and be reunited with his true love and the daughter he has never met. Cue stress and violins!

First of all, there’s a bunch of Texas in this film, but I don’t think it’s overcooked. Sure, there are strong accents and amazing hats, not to mention a few remarkable mustachios, but it doesn’t come off as camp. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints suggests that Texas is a mostly real place with mostly real people, and I think that’s good for cinema.

The acting in this film is by and large strong to excellent. I’ve enjoyed Casey Affleck’s work for a while, but he’s really turned into a solid actor, and his performance as Bob Muldoon is very good. Rooney Mara, though, as Ruth, is the real reason to watch this film. She manages to express both vulnerability and strength, and comes off very persuasively as a woman trying to negotiate a nearly impossible situation. Ben Foster and Nate Parker are also good. The only role that wore on me was Keith Carradine’s as Skerritt.

In terms of the script, I will be the first to say that there are brief moments when it seems overwritten. David Lowery is careful to make sure his characters don’t use diction they wouldn’t, but he still sometimes gives in to temptation and allows them to wax poetic. Those moments aren’t bad, though, simply romantic, in the proper sense of the term. Otherwise, the writing tends to try to avoid easy resolutions, even if it doesn’t always succeed. On a base level, it’s a standard plot, but at the same time it manages to use that as a scaffold for some beauty.

Cinematography and music. Sweet to almost saccharine. I was in the mood for it, and if you are, it does it well. I worry, maybe, that it runs the risk of idealizing a certain Americana that really only exists in fantasy and Will Oldham songs. But maybe we need that from time to time.

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