The Keeping Room is the story of two sisters and their family’s slave, played by Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld, and Muna Otaru. They are struggling to get by in a land absolutely decimated by the war; food and medicine is all but exhausted and all the men have gone off to fight and die. The Union Army hasn’t reached their town yet, but two forward scouts have, played by Kyle Soller and Sam Worthington. After persuading the barkeeper at gunpoint and to hand over any alcohol he has left and abusing his wife, they follow Marling’s character home.
What follows is a dark and brutal examination of both the plight and strength of women in war time. I enjoyed this film first and foremost because we so rarely see historical dramas from a female perspective in cinema, or any media for that matter. It is an unrelentingly bleak picture of the horror of conflict from the perspective of those who are most vulnerable to it. Although I certainly appreciated the sheer cynicism of the film, it sometimes takes it a little too far, to the point where you start to think “Oh come, give these people a break”. The movie is beautifully shot, even though much of it is beautifully awful and disturbing. And all of the actresses and actors do a terrific job, although I think Brit Marling in particular stood out. That has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I have a little crush on her.
All in all, The Keeping Room is a beautiful and terrifying film about women and war, a topic that sorely needs more attention and examination in our culture. I hope that someday films such as this are shown in our history classes so we can get an idea of what the Civil War was really like.