Rotten (learn more)
Michael J. Smith Sr., Jim Myron Ross, Tarra Riggs, Johnny McPhail
Lance Hammer, Andrew Adamson, John J. Hammer, Mark Johnson, Aimee Shieh, Nina Parikh, Lol Crawley, Jerel Levanway, Caroline Eselin
In the cold, winter light of a rural Mississippi Delta township, a man’s suicide radically transforms three characters’ lives and throws off-balance what has long been a static arrangement among them. Marlee is a single mother struggling to scratch a living for herself and James, her 12-year-old son, who has begun to stumble under drug and violence pressures. So when the opportunity to seek safe harbor at a new home arises, she grabs it, though the property is shared by Lawrence, a man with whom Marlee has feuded bitterly since James’s birth. With circumstances thrusting them into proximity, a subtle interdependence and common purpose emerge for Marlee and Lawrence as they navigate grief, test new waters, and tentatively move forward.
Ballast is one of those rare films that maximize the medium through an aesthetic of understatement. Every frame is deliberately and beautifully composed, every cut artfully and economically executed—not only to transmit a quietly gripping story but to reveal characters’ layered emotional experiences and the specific textures and sensations of their locales. Because it is grounded by three exquisitely nuanced performances, it’s not surprising that Ballast is the product of intensive collaboration with local nonactors organically connected to the material. First-time director Lance Hammer is a distinctive voice with a remarkable sensitivity to the topography of human relationships and a powerfully cinematic social-realist vision.