“The Keeping Room” is a refreshing take on the Civil War genre from a woman’s perspective that is just a little dull.
There are dozens if not hundreds of movies set in or around the Civil War, but few tell the story of the women who had to stay at home. While women in the North were still safe and able to live happy lives, women in the South had to take control of these once grand plantations and manage to survive all while knowing the Union army was probably on their way to destroy their world. The screenplay for the film is one of the scripts listed on the 2012 Blacklist, a list of great screenplays for movies that just weren’t made.
Daniel Barber, once an acclaimed director of commercials, made his way into film with an Oscar nominated short film. Although he hasn’t done a film in a couple of years, you’d still expect him to bring this fascinating script to life in a great way. However, he falls short. The pacing is very slow and reads as dull. The flaws in directing also lie in the different directions the film takes at different points. At some points, you get this calm, stable style of directing during the great dialogue scenes to the tense scene at the bar. Then, during later scenes you get this horror style of directing during the home invasion scene that changes things to a different tempo and it doesn’t quite fit. It all comes back to the pacing, which could’ve been better. This is rather strange because the screenplay is actually good. Scenes are longer than they should be and I’d imagine it’d be hard to grip an audience with such a slow film. He does draw tension and emotion well, but I don’t think he did the script justice.
Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld, and Muna Otaru were great. They played off each other well and managed to keep the relationship dynamics of sister to sister and slave owner to slave in a very visceral and contrasting way. It’s interesting to see how as the old world of the South crumbles, so too does the walls of inequality begin to fall between these characters. Sam Worthington also delivers a good performance as a Union soldier.
This film’s redeeming quality is the unique perspective and story it tells, but because of the bad pacing and general sluggish progression, you may find yourself a bit bored. Watch this film for the good screenplay, which will only leave you wondering how much better this movie could’ve been with some changes, or possibly as a short.