Film Review - 'Ballast'

Posted on: 08 April 2011 by Alexander Hay

An evocative story of personal catastrophe and communal redemption is provided by Lance Hammer’s first feature film Ballast

It's a boy's life in Ballast

In the cold winter light of the Mississippi Delta, three lonely people stumble under the weight of a shared tragedy. Lawrence is paralysed with grief after the loss of his drug-addicted twin brother and unsuccessfully tries to commit suicide. 

Twelve-year-old James drifts into the orbit of local teenagers and gets involved with crack dealers, while his single mother, Marlee, is too exhausted from her menial job to interpret the clues.

When sudden violence forces mother and son to leave their home in the middle of the night, they desperately flee to Lawrence’s property. Though this provides a safe harbour, it quickly rekindles the fury of a bitter, longstanding conflict between them. With the boy’s future hanging in the balance, the two adults must reckon with the past while together searching for a new way forward.


Writer-director Lance Hammer, together with British cinematographer Lol Crawley and a cast of local non-professional, mainly black actors have created an unflinching, profoundly humane story of lost souls forced by circumstance to seek solace in the most unlikely of places. 

Admittedly at times it seems as if we are seeing these people from the outside rather than getting under their skin and indeed the film would have benefited from a stronger script. 

But its sense of raw realism, visually striking photography and a truly memorable performance by Tarra Riggs, who puts her heart and soul into the role of the boy’s mother Marlee, for which she won a Best Actress Award at the Gijon International Film Festival, makes this a film worth catching.

Released by Axiom Films.

On now at the ICA and selected cinemas

Press: Nick Pourgourides at 0207 243 3111

By Laurence Green

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