Top critical review
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Left in the dark
on 8 September 2013
I was drawn by positive reviews to this Texas backwoods tale of Bob and Ruth, two lovers who get caught up in a shoot-out with the local law officers. Bob takes the rap and goes to jail, leaving Ruth to bear and bring up their child, swearing to wait for him. This has all the potential for a drama of doomed love, but despite good performances from Rooney Mara as Ruth, Patrick Wheeler as the soulful sheriff waiting in the wings for Ruth's favours and Keith Carradine as the storekeeper who brought up the young couple "gone to the bad" I was left frustrated and disappointed by the film.
What one professional reviewer has described as "elliptical storytelling and dreamy magic-hour light" struck me as a very confusing presentation of key details and an underlit, wavering filming technique which often makes it well nigh impossible to see what is going on. Too often, an important scene is flashed onto the screen for a fraction of a second, leaving the viewer unsure what has happened - who shot whom or why. Worst of all, Case Affleck's drawl renders Bob incomprehensible half the time. Although clearly handsome, he comes across as monumentally stupid and dull. In order to make us care about Bob and Ruth, the writer/director needed to develop their characters, relationships and complex motives for their crime.
Although the recent "Beyond the Pines" was flawed, it succeeded better in this type of theme.