Showing for the first time on our shores in February (Glasgow), despite doing the festival rounds for the best part of a year, starting in Cannes last May, cinematographer Jeremy Saulnier directs only his second feature here in the form of moody thriller, Blue Ruin. Out on a limited release in cinemas on May 2nd 2014, the film is already available on demand globally.
Garnering a host of critical acclaim along the way it is quite easy to see why he has ended up in the chair. Saulnier’s inarguable eye for a shot is enviable indeed, but could this undeniable artistic merit and pleasing aesthetic talent transfer well enough to run the whole show? There is more to a movie, after all, than just making it look pretty. As Saulnier also writes the screenplay here, it seems that he can indeed walk and talk.
That only really leaves the question of his actual direction, which on the evidence provided here, is also seemingly in safe hands. So, when all is said and done, we have the makings of what could be a very satisfying hour and a half in the company of Dwight, our mysterious lead character, handled with delicate care and attention by the excellent Macon Blair.
Blair treats this contemplative, sullen and focused individual to deft performance touches, engaging the audience, rightly or wrongly, to the character throughout the film, despite evdience to suggest that although well-intentioned, Dwight is often misguided, careless and sometimes hopelessly foolhardy. We meet him as an apparent drifter, living in his car and off the food that others throw away. Raggedy and unkempt, he is most certainly off the grid in a social sense of the word, but his status is merely on hold. Here is a man waiting for something to happen.
And happen it does. We are drip-fed a narrative that seems, at first glance, to be pefectly reasonable. There are questions raised about his life choices from the outset and it is clear that this character is not the kind of individual you are likely to meet everyday. Seemingly having at least two faces to show us, Dwight is part amiable everyman and part pursuer of his own justice at all costs. Enveloped by the task he knows and wants to complete, when the time comes to carry this out, you can be sure that he will, until the end, whatever the end may be. Dwight goes about his business with all of the alacrity that only either a man in a hurry or a man with nothing to lose can.
Saulnier’s story is complicated enough to warrant your fullest attention and there are many questions left hanging as the audience progresses through the film, practically daring the viewer to switch off, so enticing are the numerous hooks that you expect, with the skill of the project, to come back and remind you of their existence, before beating neatly packed away. Blair’s performance and Saulnier’s writing make very comfortable bedfellows and a more recognisable face may not have worked as well as Blair’s has done here.
A considered and highly engaging character piece, with a simple plot at its core, Blue Ruin is directed and performed very well indeed, with a sense of the subtle, offering a positive loudhaler for all of those involved.