Ain't Them Bodies Saints

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Ain't Them Bodies Saints Movie Poster Image
Poetic outlaw romance is beautifully acted but violent.
  • R
  • 2013
  • 105 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Despite the fact that it's about outlaws, the movie holds unconditional love on a pedestal and speaks of forgiveness and the enduring bonds of marriage and family.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Nearly all of the characters are flawed (to the point of being criminals in some cases), but they have the power to do good. Despite her past involvement in crime, Ruth is a dedicated mother who loves her daughter unconditionally. Bob might be a convicted criminal, but his love for Ruth and their child is powerful. Patrick is the most righteous character in the film. He doesn't judge Ruth or even Bob for their misdeeds and just wants to protect Ruth and offer her a way to move forward.

Violence

Gun violence bookends the film; there's a shoot-out at the beginning and one toward the end. Characters are injured or die from their gunshot wounds.

Sex

Flashback to kisses and caresses between Bob and Ruth. Their relationship is clearly passionate, but there are no actual sex scenes in the film.

Language

Occasional profanity includes "s--t" and "a--hole."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink, mostly in bars.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ain't Them Bodies Saints is a stylized, atmospheric indie drama that's part Western, part relationship drama. Chronicling the intense romance between an outlaw and his bride, the movie has been compared to both Bonnie and Clyde and Badlands, and you can expect a fair amount of gun violence and on-screen death. There's also some language ("s--t," "a--hole"), but this is ultimately a love story, so there's a romantic undercurrent to the plot -- and some flashbacks to the passion between the central characters (no actual sex scenes, though). Because of the mood and the adult themes, this is a drama best reserved for mature teens.

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What's the story?

A 2013 Sundance Film Festival winner for cinematography, AIN'T THEM BODIES SAINTS follows the impassioned relationship between Bob Muldoon (Casey Affleck) and Ruth Guthrie (Rooney Mara), a 1970s outlaw couple apprehended after a gun fight with Texas police officers. Bob takes the fall for the shoot-out, despite pregnant Ruth's involvement, and is sentenced to many years in prison -- while his wife gives birth to a baby girl. Four years later, after five failed attempts, Bob successfully breaks out of prison to reunite with Ruth and their now 4-year-old daughter. But Patrick (Ben Foster) -- a benevolent young sheriff who's smitten with Ruth -- and three ruthlessly determined bounty hunters stand in the way of Bob and Ruth's family reunion.

Is it any good?

Audiences who appreciate slow, steady, atmospheric films will consider this indie Western a hidden gem. Writer-director David Lowery and cinematographer Bradford Young (Pariah, Middle of Nowhere) are clearly disciples of the Terrence Malick school of filmmaking: gorgeous visuals with plenty of poignant close-ups; poetic monologizing; slow, deliberate pacing; and drama that's more about characterization than plot development.

The story is quite simple, but that's fine, because this is a drama about moments, about remembering a love so fierce that no prison could contain it. Bob escapes captivity, and, instead of fleeing to freedom in Mexico, he's intent on finding his wife and daughter. But before the inevitable reunion can take place, Bob has to outsmart (or outrun) the bounty hunters and get past Patrick, who's a remarkably kind and forgiving man. Mara, Affleck, and Foster all give brilliant performances in a movie that could have been made decades ago but still feels remarkably current.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the amount of violence in Ain't Them Bodies Saints. How is it reminiscent of a Western? In what ways does the end deviate from a typical Western ending?

  • Some people have said the movie seems like it's set in another century, even though there are clearly more contemporary elements. What gives the movie that period feel?

  • Compare the movie to other love stories about outlaws or criminals. What makes this one unique?

Movie details

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