Dwight (Macon Blair) has spent an indeterminate number of years homeless, camping by the side of his parents’ beat up old car many states from home. Dwight lost it when his parents were murdered (in exactly the car he’s living by) by a man called Wade Cleland (Sandy Barnett), and, as we’ll learn after a while, just fled everyone and everything that made up his former life.
When he learns that Wade has been released from prison thanks to a pledge
deal, Dwight returns home to kill him, which he manages quickly, if in an
awkward way that tells the rest of Wade’s family exactly who did the deed. So,
as it goes with vengeance, there’ll be more violence ahead of Dwight.
Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin might sound like your run-of-the-mill
revenge flick – and I’m pretty sure the writer/director/cinematographer knows
the genre quite well – but is in fact everything but run-of-the-mill. It’s a
quiet – there’s barely any dialogue here at all – and focussed film that seems
to breathe sadness and compassion for all the broken lives acts of violence
leave behind; the destruction the murder of his parents wrought in Dwight’s life
and psyche is only the beginning. Violence and vengeance perpetuating themselves
isn’t a new theme for this sort of thing, of course, but you’ll seldom encounter
a film that is so careful in avoiding making its violence look cool on one hand,
as well as in not just preaching at its audience.
Instead, Saulnier treats violence as awkward and horrible and perhaps even
slightly absurd in its execution, though never in its consequences. The rest is
stillness, the brittleness of everything and everyone in life and Macon Blair’s
astonishing performance that shows so many things about his character with
greatest precision without ever needing to tell.