Thou Wast Mild and Lovely (2014)

Thou Wast Mild and Lovely
Director: Josephine Decker
Writer: Josephine Decker, David Barker
Cast: Joe Swanberg, Sophie Traub, Robert Longstreet, Kristin Slaysman, Matt Orme, Geoff Marslett, Erica McClure, Shelley Delaney, Brooklyn Shuck, Raleigh Shuck, Bennett Alderdice
Seen on: 27.02.2021

Akin (Joe Swanberg) comes to work on the farm of Jeremiah (Robert Longstreet) and his daughter Sarah (Sophie Traub). Jeremiah and Sarah are an odd pair. Jeremiah is always on the verge of insulting and ridiculing Akin, and Sarah seems to be only half in reality. Akin settles in awkwardly, especially since he is hiding that he is actually married. Sarah seems interested in Akin, and Akin starts to be drawn to her as well, but there is a touch of violence to everything.

Thou Wast Mild & Lovely is an unusual film that cultivates a sense of “everything being off” until things really escalate in a suprisingly bloody way in the end. It’s not the easiest thing you can watch, but it is worth thinking about.

the film poster showing a thick carpet of flowers with a pair of lips.

I think the most striking thing about Thou Wast Mild & Lovely is the sense of disorientation it fosters right from the start. The film begins with Sarah and Jeremiah playfighting by splashing each other with the blood from a beheaded chicken and just never stops. You never quite know where you’re at with the characters. Why is it so important for Akin to hide that he is married? What really is the relationship between Sarah and Jeremiah? Is Sarah really so naive as it may seem at first? Swanberg and especially Traub are fantastic, keeping their characters mysterious enough to make this work and making it feel natural.

The film’s camerawork is equally unbalanced, often showing the characters at an angle, moving around a lot, getting too close or staying rather far away. In the moments where the camera gets close, the film has a touch of Malick, but fortunately for me, since I hate Malick, it doesn’t share much beyond that. Contrary to the Malick films, there is a constant sense of tension here and the film is short, so it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Sarah (Sophie Traub) walking with Jeremiah (Robert Longstreet).

It’s a very sensual film, both in that it evokes an emotional response rather than telling a narratively clear and entirely logical story, and in the way it is focused on touch. It’s a film that you seem to experience with more than just eyes and ears.

Even though the film starts with a blood bath (or blood shower), I didn’t expect it to escalate as much as it did in the end. But it did fit the film very well. It is a daring ending for a daring film that cements my respect for Decker as a filmmaker even more.

Sarah (Sophie Traub) pressed face-down into the grass with Akin (Joe Swanberg) lying on top of her.

Summarizing: Fantastic.

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