For some reason I didn't find "a beach bum finds his quiet life upended by dreadful news and sets off for his childhood home to carry out an act of revenge" to be the most gripping synopsis for a film. Also, the movie's poster was a tad more aggressive than I prefer. I don't know, it just seemed too heavy. But I kept hearing about it. Some of my favorite media outlets favorited it. I couldn't escape it. So, I finally got around to it, and guess what? I found Blue Ruin to be an intelligently restrained and "thrillingly grim, well-told revenge story."
Blue Ruin is the story of Dwight Evans (Macon Blair), a man living a kind of self-imposed emotional exile due to his traumatic past. Dwight is homeless, broken, and virtually estranged from the rest of the entire world- until he learns that an opportunity for retribution has arisen. He sets out for vengeance with a plan that is both short-sighted and full-fledged. Blue Ruin offers its audiences a gripping balance of violence and morality. We don't condone Dwight's actions but we understand them.
The film seems to explore themes of masculinity, family, and community; more traditional concepts than viewers sometimes expect from the modern, thriller genre. I was a bit puzzled, surprised that I kept referring back to my knowledge of medieval literature- there's something about the story that seems alluringly archaic. (Check out the 9th Century Medieval elegy The Wanderer for something along the same lines.)
Does Dwight seeks revenge, blood for blood, because he's weak? Or do we just see it that way because that behavior no longer fits within the confines of acceptable social behavior? As a viewer, it feels like an airplane is flying above you throughout the entire film, constantly waving a "medieval justice" banner across the skyline.
Looking forward to future films from director, Jeremy Saulnier, who is reported to be in talks to direct another "intense tale of fate, family, and revenge"...but this one's with wolves.