Drama set in a Mississippi Delta township follows the life of a single mother and her son who struggle to subsist.
"Ballast" lacks ballast. Much praised by aficionados of minimalist indie cinema – hey, who needs a plot when you've got mood? – it's a wearying slog through anomie in a Mississippi Delta township. It centers on three lost souls. At 12, James (JimMyron Ross) already looks preternaturally old – poverty is aging him. His single mother Marlee (Tarra Riggs) works long hours in a cruddy job and leaves the boy to his own delinquent devices. His uncle Lawrence (Micheal J. Smith), who owns a highway convenience store, spends much of his time in a state of depressed catatonia. Their lives come together in ways that are meant to be more resonant, more true, than the usual cooked-up Hollywood scenario. But "Ballast" is pretty cooked, too – it offers up its meager lyricism as a testimonial to authenticity. Director Lance Hammer has a good eye for compositions featuring windswept nothingness, but he's less sure of how to position his actors in his tableaux. There is reason to take notice of "Ballast," though – Riggs's performance. Although she did not have much professional experience prior to this film, she has a natural ease before the camera and a gift for unveiling emotion with the simplest, and thus most devastating, of means. Grade: C (Unrated.)