Ballast

"Excellent"

Ballast Review


Set well below the poverty line in rural Mississippi, writer-director-editor Lance Hammer's Ballast is the first film in some time that has attempted to bring Bressonian singularity and emotional depth to the American independent picture. A bona fide critic's darling at this year's Sundance Film Festival, Hammer's metaphysical southern drama came away, rightly, with both the award for best direction and best cinematography. That it lost the dramatic competition to the mediocre micro-indie Frozen River comes as little surprise considering the fest's history.

It begins with an attempted double suicide as Lawrence (Michael J. Smith Sr.) walks into his bedroom to find his twin brother, Darius, dead from a self-inflicted overdose and decides to follow suit with a gunshot to his chest. An unexpected recovery doesn't brighten his disposition, nor does his sister-in-law Marlee (Tara Riggs) and nephew James (JimMyron Ross). This triptych of lost souls wander empty farms and side roads and settle in their ramshackle homes, finding little reason past a dreary climate for Darius' decision. Their only refuge comes in the form of restoring an abandoned gas mart that once belonged to Lawrence and Darius.

Inflected with similar tone and imagery as the Dardenne brothers, Belgium's high laureates of Bressonian mischief, Hammer uses non-professional actors and coaxes out quiet, natural performances, especially from the hulking Smith who borders on catatonic. He has some very engaging interplay with the equally-mum Ross, whose character begins on a note of crime as he attempts to rip off a local pack of hoodlums and then rob his uncle of his scant possessions. Marlee, the lone feminine presence, causes commotion like she was paid up-front but Riggs, a visceral presence, keeps her grounded in urgency rather than melodrama.

It's the absence of music and clamor that makes Ballast such a nuanced work. The opening image is stupendous: James in his parka running towards a flock of geese, scattering them into the ash-grey sky before settling on a static shot of James. Increasingly mobile, Hammer's use of handheld cameras juxtaposes with his dilatory cast, suggesting inner bedlam to match a stoic veneer. With the exceptions of Marlee's outbursts, however, the film keeps things at a low hum, nestling deep into its rainy, mud-strewn purgatory.

Hammer's film is not without its faults: certain scenes run aimlessly, and the saving grace of the gas mart comes rather abruptly. Nevertheless, Ballast overcomes, bathed in natural light framed eloquently by cinematographer Lol Crowley in widescreen 35mm.

Whereas Frozen River was picked up by the accountably audacious Sony Pictures Classics, Ballast emerged both from Sundance and New York's New Directors/New Films series with a bevy of admirers and no distribution. Taking a note from David Lynch, Hammer decided to self-distribute, sending the film to several key art-house theaters (namely New York's Film Forum). It's a move that may be remembered not for its acumen but its balls. That said, in a film climate that allows banalities the likes of Meet Bill and The Babysitters to get backing, perhaps DIY is the radical action needed. Is this some sort of Marxist overhaul of studio protocol? Indie or death!

It's Gore-Tex.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 96 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 19th January 2008

Distributed by: Alluvial Film Company

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Fresh: 68 Rotten: 6

IMDB: 7.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Lance Hammer

Producer: Lance Hammer, Nina Parikh

Starring: Isa Hoes as Ellen, Kees Boot as Thierry, Teuntje Post as Chloe, Bert Hana as David, Raymonde de Kuyper as Marga, Birgit Schuurman as Anouk

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Dunkirk Movie Review

Dunkirk Movie Review

Britain's epic 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk has been dramatised on film before, but no one...

Killing Ground Movie Review

Killing Ground Movie Review

From Australia, this dark and edgy thriller is skilfully made by writer-director Damien Power to...

City of Ghosts Movie Review

City of Ghosts Movie Review

This award-winning documentary plays like a thriller as it traces the work of a group...

Cars 3 Movie Review

Cars 3 Movie Review

It's been six years since the last Cars movie (there were two Planes movies in...

The Beguiled Movie Review

The Beguiled Movie Review

In her inimitable loose style, Sofia Coppola remakes the 1971 Clint Eastwood movie from a...

War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

The surprisingly thoughtful prequel trilogy comes to a powerful conclusion with this robust, dramatic thriller,...

It Comes At Night Movie Review

It Comes At Night Movie Review

This sharply original horror film not only approaches its premise from an unexpected angle, but...

Advertisement
Okja Movie Review

Okja Movie Review

As Tilda Swinton reteams with her Snowpiercer director, Korea's Bong Joon Ho, it's perhaps unsurprising...

Spider-Man: Homecoming Movie Review

Spider-Man: Homecoming Movie Review

This may be the third reboot of this franchise in 15 years, risking audience exhaustion,...

Despicable Me 3 Movie Review

Despicable Me 3 Movie Review

Actually the fourth film in the series (don't forget the prequel Minions), this animated super-villain...

Baby Driver Movie Review

Baby Driver Movie Review

Wildly energetic and so cool it hurts, this action movie has been put together in...

All Eyez On Me Movie Review

All Eyez On Me Movie Review

There's a clear sense that this Tupac Shakur biopic is hoping to build on the...

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.