Blue Ruin is the second feature by long-time cinematographer, Jeremy Saulnier, and, hopefully, the start of a brilliant string of gut-wrenching and thematically deep films, like Blue Ruin.
The film focuses on Dwight (Macon Blair), a vagrant who lives out an invisible life by a Delaware boardwalk. Dwight’s hermetic life is based around a dilapidated, bullet-riddled, blue Pontiac that serves as one of the visual threads that ties the film together. The film begins the slow boil to its explosively melancholic climax when Dwight is informed that the man who had harmed his family in the past is to be released from prison. The film then follows Dwight on his decided course and wonderfully illustrates the fallout of his own actions and the actions of others which led him to his chosen path.
The beauty with which the film illustrates Dwight’s struggles cannot be understated. Saulnier is a gifted cinematographer who will eventually become a master of the form. Artfully throwing splashes of light into a scene only when necessary and using vibrant colours sparsely, the film shares visual companionship with the likes of Drive or Bellflower.
It is within the darkness that Saulnier exposes Dwight to the audience. Though he is mild-mannered and sheepish during the day, the night’s claustrophobia is where Dwight’s calculating and unspoken maliciousness is first glimpsed. The use of the dolly shot is the most significant and powerful technique within Saulnier’s tool box. During the course of the film, it is used to great effect in building tension by tightening the framing and leaving barely room for Dwight (and the audience) to breathe.
The greatest feat which Saulnier pulls off with Blue Ruin is that he has given the world an American revenge film which demonstrates that it is weakness, not strength, which drives someone to revenge. There is no honour in what Dwight does throughout the film. He receives no accolades, no quantitative or qualitative gains, no pride. Dwight is the everyman who takes on a task akin to Russian Roulette. But, like the game, Dwight’s odds are heavily in favour of the gun and not him.
By Rory O’Dwyer