It’s been a little while since we had a western with female protagonists before ‘Jane got a Gun’ was released earlier this year and like that film too this one has been sitting on the shelf for some while before it’s finally been released. The Keeping Room has something of art house air about it which is further reinforced by its lead star, Brit Marling, arguably the modern day queen of art house films having played the lead in ‘Another Earth’, & ‘The East’.
Set in the last days of the American civil war Marling plays Augusta , sister to Louise (Hailee Steinfield) who both live in a large remote house where a black slave girl (Muna Oraru) works for them. It’s the arrival of Sam Worthington who sets things moving and who is the moral counterpart to his reprehensible brother who appears to have no redeeming features whatsoever as demonstrated in a grim opening scene.
With the men having left a Union Army who are getting ever nearer, the film very much has a go at covering several bases with it being an overtly feminist tract as the trio of women stick together in the face of impending male oppression most obvious in its climactic scene as the women defend the house against the all male gang in what is ultimately a siege movie.
Its seems that, in the words of Aretha Franklin, the sisters are doing it for themselves and by the end there’s the suggestion that they may have assumed the mantle of the traditional male cowboy role and symbolically put their past, as traditional females characters in such an environment, behind them
The film plays heavily on its low key atmospherics using handheld camera before the pace picks up and into the mix there are nods towards revenge dramas as well as the occasional comment on race relations and the trio share a scene with what is arguably an anti male speech. One such moment occurs at a jarringly out of kilter moment when, at one point, an action sequence is put on pause for, what is a moving speech, before plunging headlong back into the action again and if it’s not meaningful speeches then the ponderous pace is further delayed with shots of meaningful looks from the actors.
But director Daniel Barber whose previous film was the cracking thriller, ‘Harry Brown’ with Michael Caine, has attempted to fashion a revisionist western with a feminist slant whilst trying to appease audiences with an action sequence too and whilst not always successful it’s certainly worth a look.
Here’s the trailer……