All art aspires to the condition of music, said the 19th-century English essayist Walter Pater. Though there's truth in this famous statement, some works of art strive to be like music much more than others. For example, the music is very low in the films of British socialists like Mike Leigh and Ken Loach. But it is certainly very high in American indie movies like Upstream Color and Ain't Them Bodies Saints (David Lowery edited the former and wrote and directed the latter). The title of the former sounds like the name of an album by a British pop band, and the title of the latter like that of an album by an alt-country band. Indeed, Saints has a story that could easily form the lyrics of a tune: One sunny day in the 1970s, a young pregnant woman, Ruth Guthrie (Rooney Mara), and her man, Bob Muldoon (Casey Affleck), find themselves stuck in an old house on a hill that's surrounded by police officers. Bob is wanted by the law for committing a robbery. Ruth is determined to stick by Bob's side to the bitter end. She shoots out the window and hits an officer, Patrick Wheeler (Ben Foster). Bob, however, finally decides to surrender, go to prison, and do everything he can to get back to his woman and their baby.
Time passes. The sleepy town becomes sleepier. Ruth's baby becomes a 6-year-old girl. Ruth also forms a close bond with the man she shot, Patrick (though he thinks it was her man who fired the bullet that almost killed him). One night, Bob escapes from prison and makes his way across many great states toward the only thing that has been on his mind all of this time: Ruth. He is going to get her, and their baby, and his loot from the robbery (which he buried next to a tree). The three are going to live happily ever after. But, of course, things are not so simple. Ruth has changed some. Patrick has entered her heart. And she wants nothing to do with the only thing Bob can offer: a life of crime. How will all this end? It's a sad song, and a solid movie.