Ballast (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner18/03/2011

Four out of Five stars

Running time: 96 mins

Impressively directed and beautifully shot, this is a slow burning but ultimately powerfully moving drama with terrific performances from its three non-professional leads.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Lance Hammer, Ballast is an independent drama set in the Mississippi Delta in present day America. Michael J Smith Sr stars as quiet 30-something Lawrence, who takes an overdose after the suicide of his twin brother Darius but is found in time and returns home after recovering in hospital.

Numbed by grief, Lawrence can't bear to re-open the convenience store he shared with his brother, but when Darius's estranged wife Marlee (Tarra Riggs) shows up, she persuades him to let her run the store, even though she has problems of her own. Meanwhile, Marlee's son (and Lawrence's nephew) James (JimMyron Ross) is gravitating towards a world of drugs and stolen guns, so Lawrence and Marlee take him out of the local education system and decide to home-school him themselves.

The Good
The performances are excellent, particularly considering that all three leads are non-professional actors. As a result, their interactions seem almost painfully realistic, heightened by a script that often has entire scenes unfold with either minimal, inarticulate dialogue or with no speech at all.

In addition, the film is beautifully shot, courtesy of cinematographer Lol Crawley, who finds some extraordinarily beautiful images, most notably an opening shot of James startling a large group of birds into flight against the grey skies. Both the landscape and the lives of the characters seem unremittingly bleak, but Hammer finds glimmers of hope in both that are quietly moving.

The Great
The film is clearly influenced by the likes of Charles Burnett's 1977 cult classic Killer of Sheep and, more recently, by David Gordon Green's George Washington (2000), (though Hammer pointedly eschews the use of music that characterised those films). Instead, this is a film that's less about a community (there are hardly any other named characters) and more about lonely people finding human connections in the wake of grief.

Worth seeing?
Ballast is a superbly directed, beautifully shot and powerfully moving independent drama that will stay with you long after you leave the cinema. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

Ballast (15)
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Content updated: 16/10/2017 23:04

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