director Daniel Barber
The further that we move in time from the period of the Western, the less ubiquitous it becomes culturally and the more significant it becomes as a form of commentary and understanding of history. This is the nature of the Revisionist Western, telling stories that the traditional genre utterly omitted, giving voice and agency to peoples reduced to stereotypes or bit roles in the genre’s heyday, and shedding light on history in new ways.
The Keeping Room is a thriller, set at the end of America’s Civil War. Three women, two sisters (Brit Marling and Hailee Steinfeld) and their slave (Muna Otaru), are left at their homestead as men have headed off for war. They run afoul of two rogue soldiers (Sam Worthington and Kyle Soller) who have taken the annihilation of war to their psyches and rape and murder and pillage like demons unleashed on the land.
I really wanted this movie to be better than it is. You could probably say that about any number of movies, sure. But this one has a deep kernel of real interest deep down in it, the idea is really good. But it just isn’t that good a movie.
The is the second new generally praised Western of late (Slow West (2015) being the other) that I found disappointing but hard to pinpoint on what was wrong with the movie. The Keeping Room isn’t as bad as Slow West. But it nagged at me throughout, something just sort of “off”. I don’t know. That’s all I got.