Coincidentally, two films that I find to be criminally underrated in the 2010s both star Elle Fanning. The first one of them is The Neon Demon directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, one of my favourite directors, and the second one is of course Galveston, written by Nic Pizzolatto, who is one of my favourite screenwriters.
Galveston follows Roy (Ben Foster), who is a hitman that gets set up by his boss on his last errand. As he barely manages to escape, he takes Rocky (Elle Fanning) with him, who happens to be also in danger at the same place, but for different reasons.
So, yes, the film is written by Nic Pizzolatto, which already guarantees neo-noir type gun usage and thematic betrayal. Anyone who has seen True Detective will already see some of the elements Pizzolatto generally includes in his stories, though somehow, he makes sure his writing does not come off as repetitive.
The main point to be made in Galveston’s case is surprisingly less about Pizzolatto and more about Mélanie Laurent. Apparently, Pizzolatto was not happy with the final version of the film and its direction, but I for one cannot imagine the film being better than what it ultimately turned out to be.
A very striking choice of Laurent’s is limiting the amount of music in the film, music appearing only in two or three scenes and those tunes are very lightly placed, as they do not take over the scene but rather contribute to the atmosphere. It is generally quite difficult to imagine a film without a good soundtrack, and in this case, the barebones soundtrack surprisingly makes the film much better, as it is also ironically more suffocating with its serene scenery.
Speaking of which, even the brightest scenes with lots of sunlight and green environments are suffocating in this film. There is an understated form of tension that is almost scary and worrisome, which turns out to be a great foreshadowing for how the story evolves.
The performances are rarely so fitting in a film, really, so a job well done on the topic of casting. Ben Foster portrays a stone-cold hitman so well that his character might as well be a real person. Elle Fanning’s performance is more subtle at first, but that is only until she peaks halfway through the film with a scene that serves as a turning point for the story.
There is this tiny side of the film that includes subtle romance, and it is dream-shatteringly well done. In no way is it something that the film focuses on, but especially with the final scene of the film, it is cemented into the identity of the story. I think the major reason for this part of the story making such an impact is actually Laurent’s approach to it. She perfectly captures the essence of the characters and consolidates the story with a final, silent scene that comes full circle back to the beginning. I don’t really have the biggest interest in romantic films, but I also do not dislike it if it so happens to be part of the film, and this is one of the best implementations of romance for a film which does not really focus on that particular subject.
It is terribly difficult to find something faulty in this film, and to be honest, I just cannot. Galveston is a very haunting experience that will leave the viewers wishing they had never seen it, but at the same time, it is one of the best examples of its kind, maybe the best even. In any way, I don’t think I will ever miss anything Laurent directs.