Blue Ruin


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Macon Blair in Blue Ruin
"Visually arresting, impressively taut and enjoyably idiosyncratic." | Photo: RADiUSTWC

Filmmakers have generally taken to heart the adage that vengeance is best served cold and cinema is littered with chilly sorts who are intent on only one thing. There is also a rich seam of hot-heads, who race in a burning fury to exact comeuppance.

Cinematographer and director Jeremy Saulnier, however, finds a third way - a clammy, fumbling and anxious type of hunt that his protagonist goes on. Dwight - even his name suggests mediocrity - is little more than a shell of the person he surely must have been. Living rough in his blue ruin of a car, a colour that runs visually and metaphorically through the film, he is more like a nervous, melancholy walking beard than a discernible human. When a burly female cop comes, not to arrest him, but to tell him bad news, he shrinks even further in her presence, like a wounded pup.

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Macon Blair brings a broken fragility to Dwight and Saulnier doesn't clutter the feeling with language. Dwight has lived alone for a long time, brooding, turning in on himself and becoming communicatively broken - yet still retaining the steely desire to make someone, somehow pay for all that has happened to him.

Like most of us when faced with an act of violence, Dwight struggles to cope. He doesn't handle a blade, so much as cling to it for safety - like much of the film, his reactions are comical in a black treacle way. Despite his incompetence, he somehow succeeds in murder but he is shocked by death and, as a consequence, so are we. The act seems over quick, leaving death in all its brutality and blood, that nasty, sticky stuff that lingers.

The problem for Dwight is that the object of his anger is part of a crime family and, accordingly, so much better at the violence biz than he is. He may be expecting a simple arrest but instead reaps the whirlwind - and what about his sister and her family?

Things may spin out of control for Dwight but Saulnier grips everything tight, from that colour scheme - the bright pop of a blue tarpaulin somehow shocking against the drab surroundings or the mournful hues of Dwight's clothes that match his mental state - to the mordant and macabre humour (what happens after Dwight sustains an arrow wound is particularly priceless). All the while, the tension hangs around Blair, whose every movement comes to suggest a mixture of trauma and sadness.

Visually arresting, impressively taut and enjoyably idiosyncratic, Saulnier - who did his own cinematography - marks himself out as a director with a strong voice that we will, with luck, be hearing a lot more of in future.

Reviewed on: 20 Feb 2014
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Unexpected news transforms an easy-going vagrant into a man bent on revenge.
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Director: Jeremy Saulnier

Writer: Jeremy Saulnier

Starring: Devin Ratray, Eve Plumb, Amy Hargreaves, David W Thompson, Bonnie Johnson

Year: 2013

Runtime: 91 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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