2014 Running time: 94 Certificate: tbc Rating: 3

Synopsis

Diane Kruger and Brit Marling are the 'better angels' whose loving nurture of the young Abraham Lincoln made him the man he became. Director AJ Edwards chronicles three years in the life of young Abe as he grew up in a dirt-floored shack in the backwoods of Indiana. Kruger plays the widow Lincoln senior (Jason Clarke) marries after his first wife - and Abe's mother - Brit Marling dies of fever. It's a lyrical, beautifully-shot drama that takes its time to tell the story the boy who would become US President.

Director

  • AJ Edwards

Cast

  • Braydon Denney

  • Brit Marling

  • Diana Kruger

  • Wes Bentley

  • Jason Clarke

Review

This ravishingly-shot monochrome chronicle of the bucolic childhood of the American President and anti-slavery campaigner could almost be called Lincoln: The Early Years.

Unlike Lincoln, Steve Spielberg's sprawling celebration of the man, this is a far more low key affair where the entire script would comfortably fit into one of Daniel Day-Lewis's rambling anecdotes.

The focus is on the two women in his early life whose common decency helped mould him (played by a practically wordless Braydon Denny) into the strictly moral statesman he would become.

Brit Marling plays his mother, a wispish slip of a thing who sees his early potential and urges her taciturn husband (and Abe's dad) Jason Clarke to send him to school, a proposition he's reluctant to endorse as he needs the boy to work the land.

Through Edwards' lens it appears an idyllic world of sun-dappled fields and babbling streams as playgrounds for Abe and his young relatives. However, there's is a hand-to-mouth existence and tragedy strikes when Abe's mom is taken by a fever.

Their precarious existence rapids slides downhill, the children go virtually feral and dad takes it upon himself to head to Kentucky to see if his luck can change.

As his luck would have it, it does...and he returns to the midden with widow Diane Kruger, a pragmatic and kindly matriarch who quickly sets about getting the place right...and developing a strong bond with Abe, who is still mourning for his mother.

No-one can accuse Edwards - a frequent collaborator with Terrence Malick (who co-produces) - of rushing things and his mentor's influence weighs heavy. Life is portrayed at a sometimes numbingly stately pace with a sweeping orchestral soundtrack conspiring to prettify things up.

Yet the emergence of the Abe that would enchant America is almost palpable - his cousin notices that he's sharper than the rest, already has a well developed sense of honesty and trust and a lively mind encouraged by Wes Bentley's inspirational teacher.

It's an impressionistic film that demands patience...but repays that investment with a clutch of scenes of real poignancy and sweetness.

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