The Keeping Room full movie review - Come Back From The Dead Stew
From the director of the Michael Caine vigilante justice movie Harry Brown, comes the story of three girls, two sisters and their slave, living off their land and their wits in order to survive the advances by two rogue union soldiers.
The film aims to deliver a handful of intriguing messages and representations but just falls short in its effort to express them impactfully.
However, I must say that the films take on race relations and the representation of the character Mad was fantastic. Wonderfully brought to the screen by Muna Otaru, Mad is the family slave and is therefore an outsider to the family unit of the sisters. But as the film progresses we begin to learn more about Mad's past as a slave, in fact we learn more about her character than anyone else and so she is the character you warm to and root for the most, especially when having the balls to retaliate and slap Augusta back. Being the family slave, Mad becomes the film's vessel on race relations in the 1800's and her journey throughout the film successfully foreshadows the abolishment of slavery as well as the black movements in the 100+ years to come.
As well as race representation, the film also offers a rather positive and interesting representation of gender. The film is a female lead western which already subverts the genre, the fact that these women are strong and fight back when pushed further reinforces this genre subversion and positive representation of women, away from the weak hookers of almost every other western film ever. This of course is down to the writing of Julia Hart's script and the performances of the three leads, especially Brit Marling and Muna Otaru and so I applaud their efforts.
Although representations were good, narratively I felt the film was weak. The film's pace was off as the film moves slowly but the home invasion moved very quickly. The film doesn't really get started properly until it's about 40 minutes in, I know that relationships need to be established and the film is set on race and gender representations but the films story becomes almost dormant as this happens and also I do feel more should have happened after seeing what the film actually achieves in 40 minutes.
I also fail to see the purpose of the mysterious black man, his character amounts to very little even though the film attempts to give him some purpose in terms of race relations and connections to Mad, but I can't help but feel that this character was rather pointless in the grand scheme of things. The films ending also falls flat of any real impact, in my opinion, as it feels rushed. I do appreciate the message of the ending but I just feel the execution was a little weak.
Overall, The Keeping Room is a moderate film that doesn't quite match the effectiveness it's messages hold. With a strong cast and representations it's a good representation piece, but the overall film itself is a moderate western. It's a slow and, at times, suspenseful film that aptly follows the opening quote, "The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over."