Ballast (film)

Ballast is a 2008 film directed by Lance Hammer. It competed in the Dramatic category at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the awards for Best Director and Best Cinematography.[1][2] The film received six nominations in the 2009 Film Independent Spirit Awards.[3]

Ballast onesheet midsm.jpg
Directed byLance Hammer
Produced byLance Hammer
Nina Parikh
Andrew Adamson
Mark Johnson
Written byLance Hammer
StarringMichael J. Smith Sr.
Jim Myron Ross
Tarra Riggs
Johnny McPhail
CinematographyLol Crawley
Edited byLance Hammer
Distributed byAlluvial Film Company
Release date
  • January 19, 2008 (2008-01-19) (Sundance Film Festival)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited States


The film opens with a local man driving to the home of Lawrence and Darius, twin brothers who operate a local store. Upon entering the home, the man discovers Darius dead in his bedroom with Lawrence sitting on the couch unable to speak. Lawrence then walks to a neighboring property and shoots himself in the chest, which he survives. In the hospital, it is revealed that Darius committed suicide. Depressed and unable to return to the store he owns, Lawrence spends his days at the property he shared with his brother. Meanwhile, James, Darius' estranged pubescent son, steals Lawrence's gun and holds him at gunpoint for money to buy crack. After a failing to repay debts to his drug dealer, James and his mother, Marlee, are targeted in a drive-by assault. Unable to return home, Marlee confronts Lawrence about Darius leaving her and James many years prior and moves into Darius' vacant apartment. After she is fired from her job as a cleaner, James convinces Lawrence to buy them food, which he does. Bound by these numerous tragedies, the trio form a de facto family, determined to move forward, starting with Marlee convincing Lawrence to let her run the store. The pair loosely decides to raise James together, beginning with a shared homeschooling schedule to keep James away from the negative influences that led him to drugs in the first place. The film ends when Lawrence discovers that ammunition is missing. He confronts James, fearing he has found himself another gun, only to find that James had thrown the bullets into a stream, to prevent Lawrence from attempting to harm himself again.



Ballast received critical acclaim. The review tallying website Rotten Tomatoes summarized its research by saying that critics considered the movie "A searing debut by director Lance Hammer, this subtle and contemplative Mississippi set drama lingers long after its conclusion."[4] The website reports that 61 out of the 67 reviews it tallied for the film were positive for a score of 91% and a certification of "fresh".[4] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four stars out of four, saying the film "inexorably grows and deepens and gathers power and absorbs us."[5] He later named it as one of the 20 best films of 2008.[6]

It was nominated for a 2008 Independent Spirit Award for Best Film.

Top ten listsEdit

The film appeared on several critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2008.[7]


  1. ^ "2008 Sundance Film Festival Announces Films in Competition" (PDF). November 28, 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 25, 2008. Retrieved December 20, 2007.
  2. ^ "2008 Sundance Film Festival Awards". January 27, 2008. Archived from the original on May 28, 2008. Retrieved May 25, 2008. In The Daily Insider (Sundance Film Festival).
  3. ^ Maxwell, Erin (December 2, 2008). "Film trio feel the Spirit". Variety. Archived from the original on December 5, 2008. Retrieved December 2, 2008.
  4. ^ a b "Ballast (2008)". Retrieved January 4, 2021 – via
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Ballast Review". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Ebert's Top Movies of 2008". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  7. ^ "Metacritic: 2008 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Archived from the original on January 2, 2009. Retrieved January 11, 2009.

External linksEdit