Galveston, a small town on the coast of Texas, becomes the refuge for a couple of outcast, lonely misfits on the run from mobsters in French actress Mélanie Laurent’s English language directorial debut. The film, named after the town where it is primarily set, is a gloomy, deliberate mood piece designed for niche art house viewing with a recognisable narrative that draws inspiration from its impassioned lead performances and some surprising revelations that leave an impression and prevent the film from feeling too familiar.

From its opening moments, where Ben Foster’s traumatised Roy, a hitman and an ex-con learns of his impending death by way of lung cancer, the film establishes its aura of uncertainty and despair. Following an assignment that in reality is designed to eliminate him, Roy hits the road, switching cars, then motels, to avoid being traced or found but not before picking up excess baggage in the form of a young, naïve escort (Elle Fanning). He wants nothing to do with her, but under the circumstances, can’t help extend some generosity by taking her under his wing until he can figure out how to get back at those who have deceived him.

The film in this way is less about plot, a lot of it relegated to waiting in seedy motels, pretending to be on vacation as a dubious family, while trying to figure out what to do next. In these quieter moments, the two leads shine, laying bare their vulnerabilities and flaws but also exposing an underlying yearning for something better, just out of their reach. Laurent’s direction is careful and considerate of their common situation, their damaged past and their individual temperaments. In this way, with the morose setup, flawed characters and a story that remains just out of reach, the film echoes writer Nic Pizzolatto’s other well-known product, the crime drama True Detective. But the writing here remains bare, almost elusive and the machinations of the storyline both tardy and a little unsurprising, except for a late third act denouement that hints at what could have made the films reach a bit more ambitious.

Galveston is out in UAE cinemas on Thursday, November 18.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

About Faizan Rashid

A veteran Dubai based film critic, Faizan has been reviewing movies for nearly a decade. His work has been published in local newspapers such as 7days and on prestigious online websites such as MSN Arabia and