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A single mother and her embattled son struggle to subsist in a small Mississippi Delta township. An act of violence thrusts them into the world of an emotionally devastated highway store owner, awakening the fury of a bitter and longstanding conflict. Written by
I first became interested in Ballast when I heard about its setting: it's very rare to find a film set in the Mississippi Delta. It's also quite rare to find a serious drama with mostly black characters. I was afraid that this would either be a sappy melodrama or an attempt to make some "profound" point about how racism exists and is, like, bad and stuff. Thus I was quite pleased to find that this film manages to have a uniquely Southern setting without resorting to clichés or caricatures and that making some grand social statement is evidently the last thing on the mind of first time director Lance Hammer. Instead, we have a deliberately paced character study with a nicely handled mise en scene.
The film opens with the attempted suicide of Lawrence, a shopkeeper distressed over the (extremely) recent death of his twin brother/partner/only friend. Lawrence's recovery is complicated by his brother's will which indicates that the recently deceased man's ex-wife and teenage son are entitled to his share of the store and part of the property the brothers had co-habitated. Things start off tense due to the boy's involvement with some disreputable older boys that he owes money and stay that way due to Lawrence's troubled partnership with the boy's mother. This is a quiet, contemplative film for the most part and it offers no easy resolutions. Instead, it manages to realistically capture some unique characters in a woefully ignored section of American society.
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