A heist gone wrong goes wronger as the local police track down three criminals holed up in a small house in Texas. Ruth (Rooney Mara) shoots blindly into a group of lawmen, hitting one. Once captured, her man Bob takes the rap and the heavy prison sentence. (The third robber dies in the gunfight.) Nine months later, Ruth has a baby. Later, after years of planning, Bobs escapes his confinement. Will Ruth and their daughter still be waiting?
Writer/director David Lowery's second feature is dreamy, dust-filled and a bit too "deliberately-paced" (read: slow) but his intentions and craft as a filmmaker are impressive. The cast is solid. Affleck is aw-shucks charming as a letter reader.
Five Things To Know About The Latest Bonnie & Clyde-like tale:
1. Ain't Them Lyrics Confusing: Hold Us Closer Tony Danza…Casey Affleck explained recently on Leno that the film's title refers to a song that David Lowery admired. Except that he got the lyrics totally wrong. Hey, we've all been there, right?
2. The Tree of Lite. A rural '70s Texas setting and plenty of blades of grass bathed in sunsets invoke feelings of isolation as director Lowery does his best to emmulate Terrence Malick's debut Badlands (1973)—which starred a young Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek as outlaws. That's all fine and real purty, but Lowery never elevates the lovers-on-the-lam script into much that's memorable. Great lighting (every shot is hauntingly beautiful) can only do so much.
3. Ben Foster: Them‘s MVP. Sheriff deputy Patrick Wheeler was shot years back by Ruth, although he thinks Bob did it. While Bob's incarcerated, Patrick develops feelings for Ruth and tries to care for her and her daughter Sylvie (Kennadie Smith). Foster's role is the most perplexing and the most compelling in the film. Like how he doesn't harbor a grudge with Bob for them bullets. Talk about letting bygones be bygones…
4. Most Dour Couple Ever. Though Bob and Ruth spend most of the film's running time apart, the casting of Casey Affleck and Mara in their respective roles keeps the feel-glum vibes connected throughout. With Mara's steely cool eyes and Affleck's barely above a whisper voice the two stars intentionally underact every scene.
5. Heartbreak City. Some of the best moments deal with the devastation that violence has had on the tiny nameless Texas town. A tense meeting with Bob and store owner Skerrit (Keith Carradine) is the exception as that scene feels like something really awful is just about to happen.