The Keeping Room – Review

Throughout a long and lengthy history, women do not have a good time. Like. At all. In fact, we’re still suffering on a global basis, with women of colour being given out the absolute worst of it. The Keeping Room, a western drama on a long list of modern western dramas that populate our screens, sees how three different women struggle during the Civil War.

The Keeping Room stars Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfield, and Muna Otaru as three women, Augusta, Louise, and Mad, who are living in their idyllic farm house in Southern America during the US Civil War. With the men they loved and cared for out on crusade, the women all pitch in. However, there is evil afoot and the trio who must defend their home against two rogue soldiers (Sam Worthington and Kyle Soller) who are killing everyone that they come across. As a fast-approaching Union Army aims for their land, their battle will be a brutal and courageous one.

Directed by Daniel Barber, The Keeping Room is an extremely bleak one and a difficult watch. A lot of Westerns centre on the frontier world of slavery, murder, and sexual assault and The Keeping Room really delves deep into the darkness surrounding this era. The trauma and strife is reflected in the sleepy, grey, and brow hues that enhance the aesthetics. Capturing the greenery and the difficulties of rural life, Martin Ruhe enhances Barber’s film with a stunning cinematography that is all dripping in an exquisite score by Martin Phipps.

Performing Julia Hart’s eloquent script with ferocious emotion that is palpable without over-broiling the cooking pot, Britt Marling leads a defiant cast of women who’ll do anything to protect their home. Determined, strong, and with poised feminine heroics, Marling is a severely accomplished actress who brings the worry and torment of Augusta and balances them with the determination and will to live. Steinfield, an Academy award nominated actress who has gone from strength to strength with her work, easily has one of the more harrowing scenes and she tackles it with sensitivity and growth. However, Muna Otaru steels every scene she is in. Despite being classed as the lowly member of human society (a theme that is somewhat heavily handed in the film as metaphors and dialogue feel uneasy,) Otaru’s Mad is full of kindness, tenaciousness, and resolve. Otaru allows her character to burn with different levels and easily has the most powerful and redolent monologues in the whole of the film.

But then again, this is a film about three parts and each actress brings an unwavering and accomplished element to the film.

The short running time helps speed The Keeping Room along that is as drawled out as a stereotypical Southern accent. Barber and his filmmaking team know that to submerge viewers in the darkest part of the past, you cannot roll out the suffering too long and therefore, the small runtime aids an otherwise compelling and enthralling drama. Helmed by formidable actresses who capture different aspects of womanhood endurance: A passionate fighter, a good-natured survivor, and an innocent with pig-headness. With the evocative talent produced by the trio of actresses leading a visceral – if somewhat narcotic – piece, Barber’s The Keeping Room may stay with you for some time.


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