March 04, 2016

Film Review—Slow West

Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a young Scottish man, has come to the American West to search for his love Rose Ross (Caren Pistorius). Along the way he meets bounty hunter Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender) who agrees to accompany him along the way to Rose in exchange for a nominal fee. What Jay doesn’t know is that Silas is also looking for Rose, hoping to collect the $2,000 bounty on her and her father’s heads.

The genre of the Western gives the film a set of conventions to play with, both to utilize and subvert. This is done mainly with its setting in Colorado although being filmed in New Zealand. This gives it some hallmarks that resemble the cinematic iconography of the western genre but gives it a distinct flavour that clearly demarcates it.  It lacks the extreme harshness expected of the setting, but is by no means less striking. It allows for rapid shifts in the environment, both by changes in landscape itself but also by cinematic shifts in lighting, that directly affects the story. The west is not a bland setting, but can be both a place of violence and suffering or of dreams and toil. “Love is universal, like death”, young Jay is told, and these two extremes, perfectly twined in the western setting, are in full force in Slow West.

A land of beauty and bleakness, Slow West treks this manifold landscape with masterful skill.

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