COURTESY AMPLIFYBraydon Denney appears in “The Better Angels

COURTESY AMPLIFYBraydon Denney appears in “The Better Angels

‘Better Angels’ beautiful but slight

Writer-director A.J. Edwards imagines two years in the early life of Abraham Lincoln in “The Better Angels,” an mpressionistic drama produced and clearly inspired by Terrence Malick.

Filmed in rustic-meets-mythic black and white, the plot-thin story begins in 1817, when 8-year-old Abe (Braydon Denney) is growing up in rural Indiana. Preferring reading books to chopping wood, Abe displeases his stern, hardworking farmer (Jason Clarke). Abe’s serene, supportive mother (Brit Marling), however, recognizes the boy’s “gift.” After her death, Abe’s new stepmother (Diane Kruger) and a schoolteacher (Wes Bentley) carry on in her place, encouraging Abe to go far.

Edwards has worked on several of Malick’s films (his credits include co-editing “To the Wonder”), and Malick’s influence is obvious in everything from the sun-kissed flora to the twirling women to the voiceover used in lieu of dialogue in this feature debut.

While the imagery is exquisite, the film doesn’t have the vitality or emotional impact that characterizes Malick’s “Days of Heaven” and “Tree of Life” and it doesn’t provide provide a substantial or stirring picture of a young mind developing. A well-researched film with an intriguing premise, “Better Angels” is gorgeous, but not enlightening or affecting.

REVIEW

The Better Angels

two and a half stars

Starring: Braydon Denney, Jason Clarke, Diane Kruger, Brit Marling

Written and directed by: A.J. Edwards

Rated PG

Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes

A.J. EdwardsartsBetter AngelsMoviesTerrence Malick

Just Posted

A large crack winds its way up a sidewalk along China Basin Street in Mission Bay on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
San Francisco’s sinking sidewalks: Is climate change to blame?

‘In the last couple months, it’s been a noticeable change’

For years, Facebook employees have identified serious harms and proposed potential fixes. CEO Mark Zuckerberg, pictured in 2019, and COO Sheryl Sandberg have rejected the remedies, causing whisteblowers to multiply. (Eric Thayer/New York Times)
Facebook’s problems at the top: Social media giant is not listening to whistleblowers

Whistleblowers multiply, but Zuckerberg and Sandberg don’t heed their warnings

Maria Jimenez swabs her 7-year-old daughter Glendy Perez for a COVID-19 test at Canal Alliance in San Rafael on Sept. 25. (Penni Gladstone/CalMatters)
Rapid COVID-19 tests in short supply in California

‘The U.S. gets a D- when it comes to testing’

Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo led a late-game comeback against the Packers, but San Francisco lost, 30-28, on a late field goal. (Courtesy of San Francisco 49ers)
The Packers beat the Niners in a heartbreaker: Don’t panic

San Francisco is no better and no worse than you thought they were.

A new ruling will thwart the growth of solar installation companies like Luminalt, which was founded in an Outer Sunset garage and is majority women-owned. (Philip Cheung/New York Times)
A threat to California’s solar future and diverse employment pathways

A new ruling creates barriers to entering the clean energy workforce

Most Read