Eking out a living a minimum-wage jobs in a tiny Mississippi town, Marlee (Riggs) tries to provide as best as she can for her 12-year-old son, James (Ross), an incommunicative youth who's been drifting into the orbit of a malicious gang of teenage drug dealers. Spooked by an act of violence her son's actions have provoked, Marlee flees with James and seeks shelter with Lawrence (Smith), a suicidally depressed acquaintance with whom she has a deeply conflicted history. With halting steps, the trio find a path to healing, making peace with the unspoken pain that has shattered their lives.
Why we love it
Shot on location in the mostly barren, wintry environs of the Mississippi Delta, a place of extreme poverty and frigid beauty, Lance Hammer's exquisite "Ballast" examines the lives of three lost souls (beautifully portrayed by local actors Smith, Riggs, and Ross) who find themselves in circumstances of hardship and desperation. Hammer evokes a mood of stately, almost sublime melancholy, but is careful not to bury his characters beneath the heavy atmosphere, allowing them to find a tentative state of grace.