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Left without men in the dying days of the American Civil War, three Southern women - two sisters and one African-American slave - must fight to defend their home and themselves from two rogue soldiers who have broken off from the fast-approaching Union Army. Written by
The setting is the South Carolina in the final days of the American Civil War. Three southern women (Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld and Muna Otaru) learn to survive by farming, hunting and other daily chores they are thrust to complete due to the absence of men who are off fighting. Their farm is isolated, so help is not readily available. They must struggle and work to survive.
Their tedious and repetitive days are brought into turmoil when two Yankee scouts (Sam Worthington and Kyle Soller) cross paths with the mother patriarch of the trio with expressed devious intentions. With only their home as shelter, the three women must find a way to survive against the two armed soldiers who have already left a murderous path in their wake.
Julia Hart's screenplay for The Keeping Room made the Hollywood Black List back in 2012. But director Daniel Barber (Harry Brown) was resilient in his attempts to bring the strong female story to the screen. Barber wastes no time in garnishing his viewer's attention. The opening scene has a local colored girl being brutally murdered by the two scouts. The shots fired from their rifles and pistols echoed throughout the theatre and caught everyone's attention as the evil of the two antagonists was on quick display. Things take a dramatic turn immediately after as we get introduced to our three female leads and their life alone from rural civilization is dull and uninteresting unable to leverage from its strong lead-in.
All three women put on admirable acting displays, but their motions are of general non-interest to the average movie-goer. Watching them plow, eat, cook, chop wood . The Fireplace Channel is more interesting and involving than their daily life. Unfortunately, this Little House on the South Carolina Prairie goes on far too long and with little dialogue of single sentence deliveries, the film drags until the tension mounts again with the return of the two soldiers at the home.
We welcomed the piercing gun blasts that echoed the theatre to wake us up from our self-induced coma in the film's final third, but by then it was too late to get us back interested in the characters or their plights.
I would assume that Hart's screenplay and Barber's intentions were to bring a story of strong resilient women to the screen. But we are so bored by their daily routine that we were less inclined to think that these were stout and hardy women but rather three women that finally had something interesting to do. Even is that 'something' was to fight for their lives.
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