March 05, 2015

The Better Angels (2014)

The Better Angels (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: A.J. Edwards
Country: USA

Movie Review: Working lately as a film editor for filmmaker Terence Mallick (“To the Wonder” and the upcoming “Knight of Cups”), who pays back here in production, A.J. Edwards makes his directorial debut with “The Better Angels”, a reflexive, historical biography about the early years of the former American president, Abraham Lincoln. The film opens with Lincoln’s sentence: ‘All I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother’. From this quite suggestive introduction, we’re transported to 1817 Indiana, where the young Abe (debutant Braydon Denney) tries to help his stern father, Thomas (Jason Clarke), taking care of the crops. Food was not abundant and the few inhabitants were dying from sudden sickness. The good times were spent in the company of his older brother and his beloved mother, Nancy (Brit Marling), a believer and a dreamer, according to his own words. After the latter’s death, his misunderstood father brought another wife, the widow Sarah (Diane Kruger), to their home, and with her came the love and care the children needed to better endure their hard lives. The film, narrated by the protagonist, starts moderately unsettling, but insists on remaining in a dreamy indolence that runs out our patience sooner than expected. Edwards indulges himself in a sort of lyricism, which with the time, becomes exasperating. The celestial tones and slow-paced narrative, so characteristic of Mallick’s work, are quite visible, but the film becomes more stylized than absorbing and more languid than exciting. Besides the dignified visuals, with the black-and-white as an understandable choice, “The Better Angels” offers little motives to be cherished.

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