The Keeping Room, directed by Daniel Barber, is a film set during the Civil War and was written by Julia Hart. The movie stars Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfield, Sam Worthington, Muna Otaru, Kyle Soller, Ned Dennehy, Amy Nuttall, and Nicholas Pinnock. In the Seattle area, you can catch The Keeping Room at the SIFF Film center through November 5th.
Near the end of the Civil War, three young women are left to fend for themselves as they wait for men who may never return. Augusta and Louise (Marling and Steinfeld) are sisters who, along with an African American slave, must defend their property and their selves from a pair of soldiers (Worthington and Soller) who have decided to take advantage of their status while abusing the power they have over average citizens.
One of the things that really appealed to me about this film is that nothing like this has ever been told before. Seeing how dangerous of a time this really was, especially for women was very eye opening and the film quickly becomes much more than the classic home invasion story that it is wrapped around. Barber does a great job of bringing real people to life who are clearly set in the time period and not taking advantage of modern sensibilities to give the main characters a sort of false hero factor. Everyone in this movie, even the antagonist soldiers are vulnerable people who have become lost in a world that seems to be falling apart around them.
I have been a fan of Brit Marling for a long time thanks to the work she has put in to films like Another Earth, The East, and I, Origins. She is a very smart film maker and a super talented actress so this type of role suits her perfectly. Hailee Steinfeld is one of those up and coming actresses that you love to see on screen from her feature debut in True Grit to more recent efforts like Begin Again and Ender's Game, she is always a joy to watch. The biggest surprise from this film has to be the performance turned in by Muna Otaru who does a fantastic job portraying a slave who has come to realize that, thanks to the tough time she is living in, she has become more of an equal to the sisters than ever before.
The Keeping Room is a very raw and gritty film that pulls no punches in shining a light on a bit of American history that most people have most likely never had the opportunity to consider. While it is not a flawless story, it is very entertaining and features some really good acting performances.