Mismatched pairs are the order of the day in Ain't Them Bodies Saints: hope and disappointment, love and absence, prison and freedom, dreams and reality. It's suggested that the lead protagonists — small-town criminal Bob (Casey Affleck) and his wife, Ruth (Rooney Mara) — are true soulmates, but one could hardly call them "matched": He's on the lam from jail and she's raising their young daughter alone.
The distance between them, and the film's other mismatches, lie at the heart of David Lowery's lean, languid drama, which takes place in a Texas town sometime in the 1970s. Bodies introduces Bob and Ruth as they are arrested; handcuffed together, their intimacy is electric. But most of the film covers the few days four years later when Bob tries to reunite with Ruth and the child he's never met.
Writer/director Lowery — not the guy from Camper Van Beethoven, but an editor who worked recently on Upstream Color — has clearly been influenced by Terrence Malick, both in the film's visual style and its spare, melancholy storytelling.
Bodies also has an equally spare soundtrack of old-timey rhythms, some as elemental as hand claps. But it is not without its richness: It's visually sumptuous, meticulously constructed to tread the knife's edge between plot and ephemeral experience, and offers fine performances from Affleck and Mara, as well as Ben Foster and Keith Carradine.