THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
“In the recent flood tide of releases, I missed another elegantly uncluttered little movie -- little only in the scale of its production budget -- called "Ballast." A debut feature by Lance Hammer, it's a deceptively leisurely account of tragedy and reconciliation in a Mississippi delta family. At the center of it all is Lawrence, a large, deliberate man played by Micheal J. Smith Sr. (Mr. Hammer has used only nonprofessionals in his cast, and used them brilliantly.) When his twin brother kills himself, Lawrence grows despondent, his nephew goes out of control and the family's already tattered fabric starts to unravel.
That makes the movie sound more eventful than it is. For the most part the story moves at the ambling pace of uncertain lives, a pace representing the filmmaker's trust that his audience will stay involved as several important events unfold. His trust is justified by his talent. This ostensibly simple film evokes whole lives in 96 minutes, and does so with sparse dialogue. It's about sorrow, addiction, the secret life of a child, an incipient fall from the slippery decks of respectability and the moral and material ballast that keeps a family afloat. It's even about twins. The brother who dies takes some of Lawrence with him.”
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