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Christopher Webster [Celluloid 09.28.15] thriller western war

The Keeping Room sees Brit Marling as the matriarch of a household of three women whose lives come under threat when two Union soldiers invade their farm house. However, what sounds like a simple genre twist on the home invasion film is actually a thought provoking exercise in revisionist storytelling - particularly in terms of how POV shapes the way we view film and history.

I'll admit that I was going to come at this review from the position of it being a feminist western, but James Franco changed my thinking on the matter. Yes, actor James Franco. The star of Pineapple Express recently published a column about the film where he called it a "revisionist war movie" and, of course, that's what it is. It's taking a topic like the Civil War, a huge historical event in America, and expresses it through the POV of these women, something that neither film, nor history books tend to do.

Any other Civil War movie would be loaded with heroes and villains, all men. Instead, screenwriter Julia Hart shows us the world of women during this time; abandoned and no less brutalized by the war than the male soldiers.

The world of The Keeping Room is downright apocalyptic. Men kill and maim with impunity, ravaging the country and its civilians. And there seems to be no governing body in place to protect anyone. These women are totally alone and this makes for a truly harrowing viewing experience.

A large portion of the second and third act are devoted to the invasion of the homestead and it is nail-biting stuff, shot with tight precision. It's brutal and pulls no punches, a stark contrast to some pastoral imagery in the begging of the film. By the end of the film, the whole world has changed for all the characters.

Sam Worthington turns in a great performance as do Muna Otaru and Hailee Steinfeld.

The Keeping Room opened September 25. Look out for it in theatres and on VOD. It's well worth it.

Recommended Release: Unforgiven

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Lenny (6 years ago) Reply

I'd watch Brit Marling paint a room and then sit and watch it dry with her. She rocks!

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