Keeping Room (The)
R2 - United Kingdom - Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Samuel Scott (17th October 2016).
The Film

It is the deep South of The United States of America in 1846. On a slowly dying farm live sisters Augusta (Brit Marling) and Louise (Hailee Steinfeld) along with their female helper/slave Mad (Muna Otaru). The farm is providing barely enough sustenance to live and all the sisters menfolk are off fighting in the civil war. Louise is bitten by a raccoon whilst walking in the nearby woods and the bite becomes infected. Louise travels to another nearby farm only to discover the one of the sisters that lives there has vanished whilst the other had drank some poison and has died. Augusta has no choice but to ride to the nearest town in search of medicine for her sister. She arrives at a trading post but her timing is bad. Also at the trading post are two renegade soldiers who we have already witnessed raping and killing a young woman and killing a black woman who stumbled across their path as well as a coach driver. Augusta manages to escape the men's clutches thanks mainly due to the kindness of the trading post owner and the resident whore. Augusta arrives back at her farm and administers the medicine to Louise and now Mad and Augusta must wait to see if the medicine works. Trailing behind the two men who accosted Augusta is a mysterious black man who arrives at the trading post a day behind and finds all the people there slaughtered. The two men are Moses (Sam Worthington) and Henry (Kyle Soller). There are known as 'Boomers'. 'Boomers' are an advanced party of soldiers sent ahead of the army to forage the land and provide information of what lies ahead. However Moses and Henry are renegade and are now taking advantage of their status by taking what ever they want be it food, drink or women. Moses was taken by Augusta and decides to track her down. With the help of his dog Battle Moses and Henry find the farmhouse and are intent on taking whatever, and whomever they want from it.

The first thing you should know about 'The Keeping Room' is that it is a film to be endured rather than enjoyed. That said there is enjoyment to be taken from the film and that is due mainly to the excellent cast performances and the dry, and at times, witty script. There are also a couple of very powerful monologues that are delivered, none more so than my Muna Otaru towards the end of the film. The direction by Daniel Barber is rather too clever for it's own good and at times, especially in the opening fifteen minutes, can be somewhat distracting. The opening eight minutes features no dialogue but lots of 'arty' shots that establish very little and could easily have been done away with. Once the film does get going, after around twenty minutes or so, Barber manages to layer on the suspense very nicely with the dread amongst the audience building all the time. The character of Louise is most definitely a child, although a teen age one, and there is a scene featuring her during the home invasion sequence of the film which many will extremely uncomfortable and it is to the Director's credit that it is not salacious in anyway. 'The Keeping Room' manages to tackle many different themes including race and feminism without ever resorting to shoving views and ideals down the viewers throat and let's the viewer come to their own conclusions regarding the rights on wrongs of the actions of not only the renegade soldiers but also the trio of women too. A powerful and uncomfortable film but extremely well made and supremely well acted. Just make sure you don't choose it as a first date film.

Video

The film is presented on the DVD in it's original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (anamorphic). The colour scheme of the film is very natural with lots of rural browns and oranges and the picture demonstrates the Director's intentions well. The scenes set during the night time are well lit with a soft moonlight providing the lighting but everything is perfectly clear and viewable. Especially well captured are the scenes set at sundown and daybreak with the two different lights beautifully shot and instantly recognisable. As 'The Keeping Room' is a new film, I expected pretty much perfection from the DVD, and this is what I got.

Audio

The soundtrack portion of the DVD is only available as English Dolby Digital 5.1. The rear speakers are used infrequently (as they should be in my opinion) with only the occasional sound of hooves thundering along a road or a gunshots emanating from the back of the room. Overall this is a quiet film but despite this the dialogue portions of the movie are clear throughout. If anything it is only the strong Southern accents that prevent the viewer from catching all the dialogue but thankfully English hard of hearing subtitles are provided.

Extras

Audio commentary with (writer) Julia Hart and Brit Marling (Augusta). Hart begins by explaining the origins of the film and the script and explains that the basis of the look of the film and structure are based heavily on 'Straw Dogs' and 'Night of the Living Dead'. Marling joins in by explaining her reaction to reading the script and how she made her feel. The commentary scene specific at times but what I liked about it best was how Hart and Marling occasionally go off on tangents when talking about the film and give a great insight and background to it.

The Making of The Keeping Room (10:47) - The actors of the film talk (in their own, non Southern voices) about the making of the film and the themes that are explored within it. It's a decent piece and a step above the normal making of 'fluff' that often turns up on DVD's.

Start up trailers;
- 'Jane Got a Gun' (2:08)
- 'The Timber' (1:54)
- 'Slow West' (1:54)

Overall

A deep, moving and, at times, uncomfortable film those crosses over genres at will. Part western, part home invasion film and there is an argument that this is part horror film too. The acting is superb throughout and if there are any faults it's that it's slightly over wrought at times and I think the ending was fudged just a little bit. Kudos especially for Sam Worthington who, with a great turn, demonstrates that his character is much more than a cardboard cut out villain, often with just a look on his face or by his body language. The film says much about race, feminism, and the horrors of war without ever being preachy or ramming home it's points like a blunt object. Challenging, difficult to watch, but overall rewarding.

The Film: A- Video: A Audio: A Extras: A- Overall: A-

 


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