This quiet, poetic film is a beautiful meditation in the vein of seventies cinema and succeeds brilliantly. The film centers around four people and the four performances are absolutely exquisite. Casey Affleck is a prison escapee journeying across Texas to get back to his family; Rooney Mara is his wife, struggling with raising their young daughter alone; Ben Foster is the stalwart police officer, torn between his love for Mara’s character and the fact that Affleck’s character is on a collision course with his town; Keith Carradine is the adoptive father of the Mara character and he’s racked with fear that the return of Affleck’s character will bring more heartache to their lives. The performances are mostly minimal; these aren’t characters given to expressing their emotions openly, but they find an evocative silent stillness that stays in the mind long after the film is over. There are long, lingering looks and quiet, breathless closeups; these are characters who think more than they speak and the pleasure of their performances is watching them think and feel with very little in the way of overt acting. This is, by far, the most minimal film to make it on my list of the Best Ensembles; it’s a wonderful, powerful reminder that restraint remains a powerful tool in the arsenal of truly great actors.
Next time, it’s one of the very last movies I saw in 2013, a film that features a set of wonderful performances from no less than seven actors.