Vancouver 2013 Dispatch: STRAY DOGS, AIN'T THEM BODIES SAINTS, And LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
David Lowery's Ain't Them Bodies Saints, while imbued with a compelling dreaminess, felt frustratingly limp. An homage to films like Badlands and Bonnie and Clyde, Lowery's film is a road movie that never leaves town, a crime movie without crime, and a romance wherein the lovers are separated within 15 minutes of the runtime. On paper, these sound like the makings for an interesting deconstruction, or study in withholding; unfortunately, it succeeds as neither of those things and just sort of feels like the whole crew ran out of time and money before anything interesting happened. Rooney Mara manages a moderately charming marble-mouthed Texas drawl, Casey Affleck completely overestimates the amount of tics and mannerisms his character needs, Ben Foster is partly sympathetic/partly creepy, and Keith Carradine provides the only unqualified reason to recommend the film.
In recent years, Hirokazu Kore-eda has consistently made heartwarming tear-jerkers, somehow deftly side-stepping outright cheese and sentimentality. He's certainly a grand manipulator, but he does it with such grace, humanity, and technical skill that it's more than forgivable. Like Father, Like Son is another to add to his streak, and one that had me and many of my cinema neighbours wiping away the waterworks. Though the film concerns a seemingly implausible trope for modern-day Tokyo (two mothers are given the wrong baby at birth and unwittingly raise the other's, until the truth surfaces six years later), Kore-eda and his impeccable cast recognize and fully realize the endless opportunities for comedy, tragedy, and emotional payoff. Beautifully shot and maddeningly sweet--I'm tearing up a little just remembering the camera scene near the end--it's no shocker that Like Father, Like Son has been cleaning up prizes on the festival circuit, now including Vancouver's "Rogers People's Choice Award," decided not by critics, but by festival-goers filling out ballots.