Latest Review – Blue Ruin (Picturehouse Entertainment)

Blue Ruin

Director: Jeremy Saulnier

UK Distributor: Picturehouse Entertainment

Year: 2013

Country: US

Genre: Thriller | Drama

Running Time: 90 minutes (1:30:24)

Rating: 15

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Image: Colour

Language: English


A surprise revelation on the 2013 film festival circuit – receiving its world premiere in the Directors’ Fortnight section of last year’s Cannes Film Festival, and winning the FIPRESCI Prize in the process – Jeremy Saulnier renders something very special indeed with this Kickstarter-funded, sleeper-hit; a stripped down, penetrating revenge thriller which undoubtedly proves one of the smartest and most refreshing releases of the year so far.

Ambiguous, unkempt outsider, Dwight spends his time wandering aimlessly around the boardwalk of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. A bearded beach vagrant, his days are spent living out of his Pontiac and scavenging through trash cans and dumpsters for anything he can find. When he discovers that the man responsible for the murder of his parents is to be released early from jail following a plea bargain, Dwight returns to his home town in rural Virginia with the aim of seeking vengeance and justice for the murders.

Best known for his work as a cinematographer, Saulnier frames his images with a precise and fairly confining or restrictive quality, ultimately adding a powerful sense of intesity and claustrophobia to the piece. His aesthetic prowess and photographic eye make superb use of the location scenery, adding further levels of depth and expanse, though the action remains fairly close and intimate, and the characters never feel overly engulfed by their humid surroundings.

As has previously been highlighted in the majority of the film’s reviews, the Coen Brothers references are fused potently throughout the duration of the piece. The Coen’s debut feature, ‘Blood Simple’ (1984) is perhaps the most prominent example, however with its Southern Gothic tone and central focus on an ordinary, flawed anti-hero caught up in a violent situation so far removed from that of his own character, there are distinct links to everything from ‘No Country For Old Men’ (2007) and ‘Barton Fink’ (1991), to ‘A Serious Man’ (2009), ‘The Big Lebowski’ (1998) and ‘Fargo’ (1996).

When Saulnier chooses to tone down the frantic pacing he achieves some really superb moments of warmth and pathos. When Dwight returns home following the main plot catalyst we play witness to a wonderful little reunion between brother and sister. After years apart, and following a personal tragedy that has never quite settled, there is an air of hostility hanging over the scene, however that irrefutable bond between brother and sister is nevertheless expertly realised, and it is these little moments introduced throughout the film that render this tragic black comedy so authentic and the flawed, passionate characters so human and relatable.

Macon Blair may not initially strike as the perfect candidate for the role, however as the story slowly unfolds, it becomes clear that Blair’s wide eyes, ambivalence and slightly naive persona could not be more fitting for what is ultimately required of the role (even more so once the revelatory, clean-shaven Dwight appears). Dwight is a desperate man wholly intent on confronting an issue he is never quite sure how to handle. It is not that he is without intelligence, just aimless and slightly ignorant. He is however resourceful, and his acquired street-smarts compensate for a significant lack of foresight and tact, effectively enabling him to tackle each unpredictable stage of the task in hand as it unfolds; though his actions inevitably lead to further levels of surreal unpredictability. Blair is overall quite excellent in the role, and his controlled and emotionally restrained characterisation of this quiet, methodical figure perfectly counterbalances the violence and black humour of the narrative.


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