The-Better-Angels

We’ve seen plenty of movies about Abraham Lincoln — including, most recently, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln — but none quite like this. The Better Angels takes place long before all of the stuff Lincoln got famous for, focusing instead on his childhood in the Indiana wilderness.

Jason Clarke and Brit Marling play the parents of the future U.S. president (played as a kid by Braydon Denney), and Diane Kruger another maternal figure. It looks a bit like Tree of Life if it were shot in black and white, and Hunter McCracken grew up to be Abraham Lincoln instead of Sean Penn. No surprise, then, that director A.J. Edwards is a Terrence Malick protégé and Malick himself produced the film.

Hit the jump to watch the first full The Better Angels trailer.

The full-length The Better Angels trailer premiered on Vimeo.

The Better Angels can’t help but draw comparisons to Malick’s work, and the marketing happily embraces that. The official synopsis boasts of their relationship, and Malick’s name appears first in the trailer before Edwards’ or any of the stars’. But the overt similarities seem to be both a blessing and a curse, as reflected by the very mixed reviews from Sundance.

On the one hand, Malick is a great filmmaker and an up-and-comer could do far worse in terms of inspiration. On the other, it keeps Edwards in Malick’s shadow. Based on the trailer, The Better Angels looks like nothing so much as a Malick copy. A beautifully shot, well-executed one, but a copy nonetheless.

The Better Angels gets a limited release starting November 7.

At an isolated log cabin in the harsh wilderness of Indiana circa 1817, the rhythms of love, tragedy, and the daily hardships of life on the developing frontier shaped one of our nation’s greatest heroes: Abraham Lincoln. Using glorious black and white cinematography to conjure an America where the land was raw, The Better Angels sheds new light on the formative years of the future president and the two women who molded him into one of the most revered men in American history. Based on 19th-century interviews with Lincoln’s family members, The Better Angels is a beautiful, insightful, and brilliantly composed feature debut from producer Terrence Malick’s longtime protégé, A.J. Edwards.

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