Ballast 2008 NR CC

(12) IMDb 7/10
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A single mother and her embattled son struggle to subsist in a small Mississippi Delta township. Acts of violence thrust them into the world of an emotionally devastated highway store owner.

Starring:
Micheal J. Smith Sr., JimMyron Ross
Runtime:
1 hour, 37 minutes

Available to watch on supported devices.

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Product Details

Genres Drama
Director Lance Hammer
Starring Micheal J. Smith Sr., JimMyron Ross
Supporting actors Tarra Riggs, Johnny McPhail, Ventress Bonner, Jimez Alexander, Jean Paul Guillory, Marcus Alexander, Marquice Alexander, Lawrence Jackson, Jeremy Jordan, Steve Cabell, Sam Dobbins, Neil Pettigrew, Sanjib Shrestha, Carol Clark, Lee G. Beck, Michael Johnston, Valeace Bright, Cassandra Campbell
Studio Gravitas Ventures LLC
MPAA rating NR (Not Rated)
Captions and subtitles English Details
Rental rights 24 hour viewing period. Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly and download to 2 locations Details
Format Amazon Instant Video (streaming online video and digital download)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Westley VINE VOICE on November 13, 2009
Format: DVD
"Ballast" is a small independent movie that was shot with primarily nonprofessional actors. Set in a rural area of the Mississippi Delta, the film focuses on Lawrence (Michael K. Smith, Sr.), a 30-something African-American man who lives on the same property as his twin brother. In the opening scene, a neighbor visits Lawrence, who is in a near catatonic state and won't respond; he's clearly experienced some kind of trauma. Slowly, we learn the back story and the relationships between the other characters who drift into the movie. This is a slice of life not often examined in movies - the realistic lives of poor African Americans in one of the most down-trodden areas of the country.

The movie is extremely low-key and slow paced. Likewise, the acting is often flat and doesn't always feel genuine (the extras show how the scenes were rehearsed and sometimes improved with the cast). However, "Ballast" overall does feel shockingly genuine, and even though it focuses on depressing issues the movie manages to be fairly uplifting without feeling manipulative. First-time director Lance Hammer has managed to tell an original American story that despite its pace is quite captivating. The film was nominated for and won various indie film awards, including a win at the Sundance Film Festival for Best Directing (Dramatic). "Ballast" reminded me a bit in tone and content of another recent indie hit, "Frozen River," and I think it will appeal to a similar audience.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Scheer on November 20, 2009
Format: DVD
Like the debris of Hurricane Katrina scattered in the fields of this rural Mississippi setting, the lives of the three central characters of this wonderful film have been shattered by forces beyond their control. A mother tries to rescue her boy from the dangerous influence of some nasty drug dealers, while a man reels from the suicide of his twin brother, who is also her ex-husband. Under grim winter skies, the emotional distances between them - anger, fear, distrust, lost hopes - verge on despair and then careen away from disaster, as the three tentatively reach out to a resolution that involves each other.

It's an alarming and saddening portrayal of lives slipping through safety nets and, by a kind of miracle of circumstances and determination, saving themselves, one day at a time. Filmmaker Lance Hammer uses hand-held cameras and an elliptical style of editing to heighten the urgency in the characters' situations. Performances are restrained and remarkable, especially JimMyron Ross, who plays the boy with a sullen silence that betrays the terror and confusion that his character is trying to hide. The DVD includes three improvisational scenes in which the actors explore their characters' relationships. Deserves every award it has won.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Karen Franklin on October 30, 2011
Format: DVD
I rented Ballast due to all of the awards and glowing reviews. But I found it so ridden with clichés, stereotypes and implausibilities that I couldn't even suspend disbelief, much less bring myself to rave about it.

The minimalist plot centers around three characters: Marlee (Tarra Riggs), the single mother with a history of drug addiction; her troubled son James (JimMyron Ross), who dabbles with drugs and guns; and the boy's catatonically depressed uncle Lawrence (Micheal J. Smith). Although the setting of a poverty-stricken African-American family in the Mississippi Delta is unusual in film, the central plot is entirely conventional: Lonely souls brought together by tragedy. But mostly, we get long, sad and bitter silences. Even an excellent performance by Riggs cannot overcome the lack of character development; none of these three are multi-dimensional enough to elicit audience connection.

What little action does occur is implausible. One moment, a gang of dangerous drug dealers is set to kill James over a $100 debt; the next, these rogues have mysteriously disappeared and are never seen again. Equally inexplicable is the ending. The film suddenly just ends, in mid-stride.

After finding myself so uncharacteristically at odds with the mainstream accolades, I scoured the reviews to find anyone whose take was remotely similar to mine. I finally found film critic Armond White's review in the New York Press, which hit the nail on the head by calling Ballast "an African-American indie film fantasy made for white liberals":

"You have to see through these ludicrous black phantoms to the actual white middle-class fantasies at the film's core.... Ballast demonstrates exactly how movies condition knee-jerk responses to black pathology....
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By R. Gawlitta on November 22, 2009
Format: DVD
"Ballast", writer/director Lance Hammer's low-budget Indie darling, is a slice of life, profound in it's realistic approach to simple, good people facing adversity. Without blabbing away the plot, our 3 central characters have their own individual issues, all of which collide and provide a new understanding among them. Marlee (the excellent Tarra Reed) shows great range of emotion; loving mother, scorned wife, a woman of integrity. Her young son, James, (JimMyron Ross), still craving the attention of an absent father, finds himself caught up in the naîve world of peer pressure and drugs. Lawrence (Michael J. Smith) is reeling over the suicide of his twin brother, James' father. Suspicion, confusion and mild deceit color the interaction of the three, leading to a sensible resolve. I'm glad I had the opportunity to rent the DVD, after all the awards it's received. The widescreen transfer is quite fine, showing a desolate landscape, which is a character in itself. The cinematography is quite fine. The fact that the story revolves around African-Americans is incidental; these characters could be of any color, since their issues are universal. Highly recommended!
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