'The Keeping Room' is a thoughtful and fun thriller

Rating: ★★★★½

From first-time screenwriter Julia Hart comes a distinctive thriller set at the closing of the Civil War, titled, "The Keeping Room." Augusta (Brit Marling) is the older sister and now the matriarch of her family. She is responsible for her little sister Louise (Hailee Steinfeld) and their slave Mad (Muna Otaru). Reminiscent of Scara O'Hara trying to find something to eat at Tara, Augusta and her family are barely surviving on vegetables that they grow and anything that Augusta can shoot - which seems near to nothing.

When Louise is bitten by a raccoon, Augusta must leave their home in search of medicine. With her town almost empty, she finds the local saloon and soon realizes that there are two dangerous men, drunk and ready for trouble. Securing some medicine from the town whore, Augusta escapes just in the nick of time.

Augusta knows it's just a matter of time before these men find her and her family. She is willing to do whatever it takes to survive.

"The Keeping Room," is a fun thriller that explores the female perspective of war. It's a combination of historical drama and an apocalyptic survival story that is never boring.

For a debut writing job by Julia Hart, it is an excellent start. There are some minor plot details that are in error and may bug some really astute watchers, but this appears to be an error on the production and/or editing side of things.

Brit Marling ("Arbitrage") and Oscar-nominated actress Hailee Steinfeld ("True Grit") both pull out great performances. But it is Muna Otaru ("Rendition") that shines the brightest of the cast. She paid attention to her accent a great deal and it helps her steal the scenes from her fellow actresses. Sam Worthington ("Avatar") also has a notable performance as one of the men out to get the girls.

Direction by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Daniel Barber is purposeful without detracting from the raw story being told, cinematography by Martin Ruhe is breathtaking and really make Romania (where the film was made) look much like the American south. And lastly, the sound effects by Oscar winner Glenn Freemantle ("Gravity") really helps to elevate the film.

October is the perfect month for, "The Keeping Room" to be out in theaters. It makes a great alternative to a thoughtless slasher film. "The Keeping Room," has themes that you will ponder over long after the movie is over - and that is a great thing.

"The Keeping Room" is rated R for strong violence including a sexual assault and has a run-time of 95 minutes.


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