Universal acclaim - based on 24 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 23 out of 24
  2. Negative: 0 out of 24
Watch On
  1. 100
    Ballast inexorably grows and deepens and gathers power and absorbs us. I always say I hardly ever cry at sad films, but I sometimes do, just a little, at films about good people.
  2. 75
    Hammer, whose blunt name belies the movie's many subtle touches, has his own distinct style. He also has an enormous trust in the audience to sort out this wounded family's miseries without the assistance of narration or even a musical score.
  3. The final shot, of the three characters now united, may be the quietest affirmation of life I've ever seen in a movie, and one of the truest.
  4. 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.
  5. This ostensibly simple film evokes whole lives in 96 minutes, and does so with sparse dialogue.
  6. A quintessentially American story that unmistakably echoes European art house cinema, combining the aesthetic purity of France's Robert Bresson with the social consciousness of Belgium's Dardenne brothers. It also is a powerful, character-driven melodrama that easily holds our attention from first to last.
  7. 100
    This is the most significant feature about poor black life since Charles Burnett's 1977 "Killer of Sheep."
  8. Shot with a sure hand and a cast of unknowns, the film doesn't so much tell a story as develop a tone and root around a place that, despite the intimate camerawork, remains shrouded in ambiguity.
  9. Ballast strikes me as one of the few American pictures of 2008 to say what it wants to say, visually and narratively, about a specific situation and part of the country, in a way that transcends regional specifics.
  10. 90
    Hammer overplays his indie hand with an abrupt and unsatisfactory ending, but his three leads are so credible that their aching, tongue-tied characters linger in the memory.
  11. 80
    Ballast is an audacious and ambiguous debut from a filmmaker whose motives and aims are not as transparent as they seem.
  12. Plot isn't what drives the picture; instead, this is a cinematic tone poem, where the dominant mood is a Faulknerian mix of sorrow and endurance.
  13. What this unclassifiable story may lack in decibels, it has in emotional depth. At once a mystery, a family drama, a snapshot of children at risk, Ballast is an unusually perceptive character study more eloquent in action than in dialogue.
  14. Working with non-pro actors, Hammer pulls authentic performances from the trio that are at times almost too painful to witness.
  15. 67
    Hammer has a nice eye, and his premise develops engagingly in the final half hour, as he raises provocative questions about whether one man can truly step in for another.
  16. Hammer filmed on location with local nonactors. Their lack of polish is evident -- Smith's inexpressiveness, though part of his character, is simply blank at times -- but their conviction can be just as powerful.
  17. It's a frustrating film in that its characters resolutely defy convention, and its story offers no epiphany, no one moment when everything becomes clear.
  18. 75
    The overall thrust of the story -- that downtrodden folks in desperate circumstances have the capacity for goodness -- is one too rarely seen.
  19. Reviewed by: Robert Koehler
    A rock-ribbed sense of committed, personal cinema and a core belief in people being able to pull themselves out of misery supports Ballast, an extraordinary debut by editor-writer-director Lance Hammer.
  20. Reviewed by: Eric Kohn
    The result is an exhilarating narrative.
  21. Reviewed by: Jeremy C. Fox
    What they produced is something that is true not just to this place or to these people's lives, or to the lives of poor people or black people, but to the experience of being human.
  22. Reviewed by: Elena Oumano
    The conflicts, truths, and, ultimately, grace and dignity that bind these three together are brought to authentic life, without Hollywood-style exaggeration, through the quiet little miracles of performance that Hammer coaxes from his non-actors, especially the heartrending Riggs.
  23. Reviewed by: Mike Mayo
    Ballast, though, is less than completely satisfying in a dramatic sense. Events that seem to be important are dropped and left unresolved. Conflicts from the past are mentioned but never explained, as if key scenes were missing. Given that disinterest in conventional narrative techniques, the abrupt ending may be appropriate, but it feels wrong and arbitrary.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 9 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 2
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 2
  3. Negative: 0 out of 2
  1. Jan 3, 2012
    With no hip hop soundtrack or flashy editing, Ballast is one of the truest portraits of family dynamics and seemingly real characters (whichWith no hip hop soundtrack or flashy editing, Ballast is one of the truest portraits of family dynamics and seemingly real characters (which is hard to find in hollywood's portrayal of black people) This film is completely absorbing and natural and never falls into independent filmmaking stereotypes neither (sure, it's quiet but it is for a reason rather than using silence as a cover up for a lack of ideals) Also the cinematography is amazing, no shaky "indie" camera work. It proves that just because a film has no budget it does not have to look like it. Full Review »
  2. May 31, 2011
    Director Lance Hammer tells a quiet and personal story, with amazing performances by non-actors. Director of photography, Lol Crawley,Director Lance Hammer tells a quiet and personal story, with amazing performances by non-actors. Director of photography, Lol Crawley, beautifully moves the story along with an even more personal handheld camera, documenting the empty Mississippi delta. Ballast is a tragically unheard of film which will always remain a gem to those who have viewed it. Full Review »