London Film Festival: The Keeping Room

Directed by Daniel Barber
Starring Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld, Sam Worthington, Muna Otaru and Kyle Soller

by Joanna Orland

This film is so empowering for its strong female characters, it is actually somewhat of a surprise that it comes from a male director.  During the American Civil War, two sisters, Augusta (Marling) and Louise (Steinfeld) along with their African American slave Mad (Otaru) are left alone to defend their land and themselves as their men have gone to war.  When an accident occurs, Augusta is forced to venture out into the land to fetch medicine for her sister.  On her journey, she encounters a pair of volatile Yankees (Worthington, Soller) who stalk her like prey.  The three women are forced to take matters into their own hands in order to survive.

The tone, performances and directing make this a very tense thriller, but genre wise it is primarily a western, from the rare female perspective.  Brit Marling gives a gritty yet haunting performance as Augusta, the matriarch of the household in lieu of parental figures.  There is no singular enemy except for the collective of men hollowed by war who come to rape and pillage whatever is left of the land and women.  This enemy is embodied by the two Yankees that Augusta encounters on her search for medicine.  While the men are strong, the women are never portrayed as the weaker sex as they put up a hell of a good fight when defending their home, their bodies and their lives from these villains.

A tense thriller from the female perspective is exactly what the western genre needs to keep it from being stuck in the 1800’s.




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