Blue Ruin

Year: 2013
Country: USA / France
Production Company: The Lab of Madness, Film Science, Neighborhood Watch, Paradise City (in association with)
Writer/Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Cast: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves

Review by Alexandra Ferguson

Revenge stories have often fascinated me. Mainly because I think I am much too lazy to ever execute a revenge plan, and also because I’m lucky enough to have never been in a situation that requires one.

Blue Ruin, 2013
Blue Ruin, 2013

Blue Ruin is a classic revenge story told extremely well. The film begins with the introduction of Dwight (Blair) a homeless man living in and out of his car. He’s unkempt, hairy and eating out of bins, until suddenly he is called in to the police station by a friendly policewoman with some bad news – the man who was convicted of his parents’ murder is being released from prison. Dwight immediately packs up his car and heads to the gates to greet him…

Macon Blair in Blue Ruin, 2013
Macon Blair in Blue Ruin, 2013

The story doesn’t sound like anything original, but that description only gives you the first ten minutes. Saulnier’s handling of the material and pacing are what makes the film a rewarding experience. The story arc of the film is not about Dwight getting even for his parents’ murder, and instead stretches beyond this. You’re thrown straight into the revenge plot without unnecessary build up, but then the pace calms down. The dialogue is sparse and has some welcome comedic moments, all of which hold your hand and guide you, only to leave you in the moments of total darkness.

The nastier scenes in the film are unexpected and understated, catching you out and stitching you into the escalating story. Blair’s performance as Dwight is a great aid in lulling you into a scene, unaware of what is about to happen. His big, brown eyes and soft-spoken manner are not like any horror leading man. It’s one of the more genuine performances of an ‘everyday’ man I’ve seen, though some aspects are, perhaps, questionable.

Blair pretty much owns the film and appears in almost every scene. The violence, when it occurs both by his hand and when aimed towards him, is handled in such a way that it feels entirely devastating. Revenge is in no way pretty in Blue Ruin. It’s gruesome, painful and disturbing. Dwight’s endeavour throughout the story is seemingly hopeless, which makes joining him on the journey all the more unfortunate.

Amy Hargreaves in Blue Ruin, 2013
Amy Hargreaves in Blue Ruin, 2013

I wouldn’t label the film a ‘horror’ movie, though ‘thriller’ doesn’t cover it either. Blair’s performance is a horror performance, but is unique and uncomfortable, as being forced to watch him scramble, cry and bleed was grippingly authentic; capturing what I think I would look like if I got caught in the same situation. There’s no fast running, no epic background music, no thankful coincidences – just one awful thing after another.

Saulnier wraps the film up within ninety minutes and it’s the perfect little package. Blue Ruin is dark and menacing while feeling unique in its approach to the revenge plot. It’s been compared to No Country for Old Men (2007) which is a good shout, though the low-budget atmosphere of Saulnier’s film only adds to the overall effect of the grim violence on the viewer. Blue Ruin is a standout film, and Saulnier has certainly got my attention as filmmaker, I’m excited to see what he does next.