Things aren't always what they seem. When we come upon Dwight (Macon Blair) he's a homeless man that's broken into someone’s home to enjoy their bathroom facilities. The preceding snapshot of this dishevelled, malnourished, melancholic man, living within a 'blue ruin' of a car situated near the ocean is heartbreaking. When Officer Eddy (Sidné Anderson) comes upon his squat, you're fully expecting him to be reprimanded for his foray into a random local's house for a wash; instead Dwight is notified that an indeterminate someone is being released from prison. The once defeated gaze hardens like molten steel dunked in icy water. That's the tantalising beginning to writer and director Jeremy Saulnier's crowd funded wonder Blue Ruin; a film about extremity folding and reassembling to the relatable. Blue Ruin looks washed out and rusted; decay is omnipresent. Whether it's unwashed, street light stained or suburbia or the houses on acreage, the wilderness around them is ready to swallow them up. The camera seems to detect the emotional state of Dwight and draws the audience closer the more feverish the pitch. In the moments where the Dwight's in a moment of contemplation the camera sweeps and appraises the situation and environment. Those steady tracking shots have a story all to themselves. It feels like a film that's going to give so many more with a second and even third assessment.
Saulnier's excellent narrative plunges us headlong into Dwight's unyielding pursuit for vengeance, without pause to think about his own safety. Just as you think Dwight has fulfilled his cause, getting up close and personal with Teddy Cleland (Kevin Kolack), Saulnier problematizes everything he'd come to believe. Scrounging to escape and avoid the Cleland clan's retribution we travel back into Dwight's past by seeking out his sister Sam (Amy Hargreaves) and former best friend Ben Gaffney (Devin Ratray). Vengeance is ultimately born out of unquenchable pain; and Saulnier finds a way to take such a tried trope and bring it back home. The further we progress along Dwight's journey the more that his life before tragedy is reflected in the interactions with the people he left behind.
Blair delivers such a believable despondency in Dwight's lawless pursuit. Once the switch has flicked he's determined to stop at nothing to exact vengeance, he's able to cast every decision with torment. David W. Thompson's William has about three lines in the whole film and yet they're the most important by a long way. Ratray plays Ben like someone who went to war with Dwight. One of the first things he says to Dwight after years assuming that he's dead, he points to his truck and says (something like), "drove my first two thousand miles in this truck putting up your missing poster." It's stated in a matter of fact way, with the intent of it to sting more than sink the teeth in. There's a casual and irrepressible loyalty that makes him a welcome comic relief for the darkness and grief that's fundamental to the story. Hargreaves is great at being able to show how deeply she cares for her brother, while revealing the scars of his departure. There's a weird line where she pities him while also being wary of what she knows he's capable of.
Exponentially inspirational; Blue Ruin is a film that feels like intimate atomic fallout out from an event that radiates through the lives of two families. Filmmaker Jeremy Saulnier is irrevocably one to watch.
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by Jeremy Saulnier
Written by: Jeremy Saulnier
Starring: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves, Kevin Kolack, Eve Plumb, David W. Thompson, Brent Werzner, Stacy Rock, Sidné Anderson
Blake Howard is a writer, a podcaster, the editor-in-chief & co-founder of Australian film blog Graffiti With Punctuation. Beginning his criticism APPRENTICESHIP as co-host of That Movie Show 2UE, Blake is now a member of the prestigious Online Film Critic Society, sways the Tomato Meter with Rotten Tomatoes approved reviews. See his articulated words and shrieks (mostly) here at Graffitiwithpunctuation.com and with DarkHorizons.com & 2SER Sydney weekly on Gaggle of Geeks.