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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
Solid Film Suffers Only Slightly from Indie-Movie Clichés
"Ballast" takes a while to draw you in, and you might give up on it before it does, but it's a film that rewards patience.
The three characters at the film's focus are Lawrence, Marlee and James, all eking out existences in the Mississippi Delta. Marlee is a single mom whose wayward son, James, is flirting with drugs, guns and other anti-social tendencies. Lawrence is the twin brother of Marlee's late husband, who has committed suicide as the film opens, and Lawrence himself is fighting depression and his own thoughts of suicide after the loss of his brother.
This bleak scenario does not become clear all at once. It takes time to figure out who these people are and what their relations are to one another. And even then, the film isn't forthcoming about everything. Marlee and Lawrence clearly have a contentious past, and we get the gist even if we don't ever learn the details. The three form a kind of tentative bond as they realize that they're all the family any of them have, and as Marlee and Lawrence begin to partner in running the convenience store the two brothers inherited from their father.
"Ballast" is one of those indie movies that makes wherever it's set look like the most depressing place on earth. There are long static shots of mundane images, like trains passing or birds taking flight, and I do have to admit that much of it felt like indie-movie cliché. But it boasts an interesting premise and a collection of good little performances, and it's certainly worth a look.
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