A beautifully shot film that shows great detail in many aspects, unfortunately not so much in the writing.
“THE KEEPING ROOM” – was released in late 2014 at TIFF and made the rounds through the film-festival circuit for much of 2015. This script is set in the last years of the civil-war era and follows three women played by; Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld and Muna Otaru who are alone on the homestead as the union army approaches. When two soldiers played by Sam Worthington and Kyle Soller break off from the group leaving their posts behind, these three women will have to defend themselves and their home when they stumble across their property.
This film had the potential to be a very riveting, time-period drama set in the fading years of the civil-war. The performances were excellent, the locations, set-pieces and wardrobes were all of great quality. I found myself intrigued by this one early on as it weaves a silent narrative of the main characters in the film and introduces the audience to the settings. But despite the fact I was pulled in early by a dramatic first-act this story was extremely slow and took forever to develop.
The performances of Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld and Muna Otaru are all fantastic. The trio delivers the fractured, slightly unstable dynamic between them as they are left to live on their own. It was somewhat thought provoking as there are indications the new life they lead impacts them all in different ways while also, all in the same. Sam Worthington and Kyle Soller as the rogue Union soldiers were well portrayed. They gave the film the feel of a true antagonist, as their despicable actions are well showcased. However, regardless of the strong performances, these characters, like the story-line as a whole, severely lacked development in my opinion.
As this film progressed I was mildly interested in what would happen to these characters but it was all from superficial circumstances, which fails to create intrigue. I knew nothing about these characters, knew nothing of really what they had went through, what motivated them, nothing. Something that was unfortunate, given in my opinion drama’s rely on solid character development. I was left with more questions than answers and while the story packs a dramatic punch in both the performance and imagery, it lands with only half the force it could have, had the script been given more substance.
The direction by Daniel Barber was in place, and along with the cinematography of Martin Ruhe the result is a very sharp, beautiful looking film. There were many subtle but very appealing scenes in this one and it helps carry the slow pace at times. The use of lighting and angles added a visual appeal to some the scenes where Barber adds wide angles in order to pull the audience into the settings, and in my opinion it was successful.
In the end, “The Keeping Room” was a artistic film that failed to meet its full potential, or simply I wanted more out this than it wanted to give. There were definitely some strong elements to this movie but with a story that lacks so much detail it was hard for me to get fully engaged. If you love a civil-war era drama you may find some interest in this one, but if you prefer to know your characters a little more than most, this film will not meet your expectations and will feel like a snippet of a larger, more compelling story.
– Starring –
Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld, Muna Otaru, Sam Worthington, Kyle Soller
– Directed By –
Time: 95 min
MPAA Rating: R (For strong violence including a sexual assault)