Fantastic Fest 2015 Review: The Keeping Room

by Alex White, Film Festival Correspondent for larry411.com

It’s the end of the Civil War and the South is collapsing. Three Southern women are hiding out in their house as the Union Army fast approaches. They have nothing else but each other and a couple of old guns with equally old gun powder. The mood is bleak.

I know what you’re thinking…another war movie. Yes, war movies have been a crutch in the film industry for years. However, Daniel Barber’s The Keeping Room isn’t your ordinary war film. The three young women are the heroines while the young men are the predatory villains.

These young women are no damsels in distress either. Led by Augusta (Brit Marling), the young women are self-sustaining, self-caring women in charge of every aspect of their home. Augusta oversees the care of Louise (Hailee Steinfeld) and a free black woman named Mad (Muna Otaru) and helps take charge when the trio faces unwanted attention from rogue former soldiers Moses (Sam Worthington) and Henry (Kyle Soller).

Thanks to the eye of Barber and the cinematography of Martin Ruhe, a story that could stall does nothing of the sort. In fact, the picture shines as the dreary landscape defies expectation and glows off the screen in the daylight and captivates in the dark.

Unfortunately, the writing and storytelling significantly brings down what could be a magical film. Much of what is implied in terms of character history and relationships is arbitrarily thrown out in the final act to artificially amplify the tension when such amplification isn’t necessary. Thanks to a certain exchange late in the film, all early interactions between the ladies and the rogue soldiers feel invalidated which causes much of the perfectly good previous two acts to suddenly feel a bit sour.

On the bright side, the story missteps in the final act don’t completely overshadow what is ultimately an enjoyable with strong female heroines the film industry sorely needs. These young women feel real and truly inspiring unlike the faux heroines of the imaginary dystopian worlds of The Hunger Games and Insurgent. There were women like Augusta, Louise and Mad in the past. Some of us maybe even have women like them as ancestors in our very own families.

In there lies the greatest takeaway from The Keeping Room. These women don’t need a love triangle or super futuristic landscape to shine during trying times. They get themselves dirty, they bond and they fight.

Rating: 3/5

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The Keeping Room is now playing in select theaters. Check your local showtimes for more details.

THE KEEPING ROOM

THE KEEPING ROOM

Brit Marling stars as the fearless Augusta in THE KEEPING ROOM. Photo courtesy of Fantastic Fest.




Author

Larry Richman

Larry Richman

For 20 years I was a professional in the entertainment industry, from commercial broadcast radio in America's fourth largest market to band management to record production. But my passion is independent film, and I spend much of the year traveling to film festivals to see indies and meet the actors, directors, and others responsible for creating them. I'm a writer, photographer, and videographer, currently serving as Senior Vice President for Media & Technology and Public Relations at PROnetworks as well as Editor at Larry411.com

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