Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruinhas, like Ilo Ilo, clocked up 12 months since Cannes acclaim. Obstacles to world exposure? A barely known director and a barely shoestring budget. Add a sidewinding script and story – American Gothic with a difference – as its murder-and-revenge plot teasingly traverses Delaware and Virginia, following homeless drifter Dwight (Macon Blair). Dwight wants death, punishment or worse for the newly freed convict who once killed his mom and pop.
Revenge, in movies, can be a dish best served microwaved. Scalding in the centre; medium-hot – deceptively mild – at the edges. This is a blue-tinged thriller with a nervy calm. One gory death leads to more, but Saulnier’s story is of a simple-hearted, at times simple-minded-seeming stumblebum played by Blair with just the right hapless innocence. All he wants is justice. Many scenes unfold in broad daylight. Those that don’t have a low-key matter-of-factness light years from film noir. Murder is a DIY activity like any other. It’s a matter of trial and error. If you don’t get it right first time, practice may help . . .
Almost everyone here is a loser hoping for a last chance at life. The hero; his emotionally pent-up sister (marvellous silently rolling tears in a café); the gone-to-pudginess former schoolpal who lends him a gun. The killings multiply. But so do the moments of kooky cinematic grace. It’s as if Ted Bundy, famed serial murderer, had got together with Ted Hopper, famed painter, to produce a sacred and profane masterwork in which you can’t quite tell one commodity from the other – or quite separate the two without spoiling each.