“Slow West” follows a 16-year-old boy on a journey across 19th Century frontier America in search of the woman he loves, while accompanied by mysterious traveler Silas.
Movie westerns cover a multitude of various genres. We have the John Wayne and Clint Eastwood genres and while naturally there are many other stories and styles in there, they are the two most common. But every now and again, a small film slips in between the cracks and is neither Wayne nor Eastwood in style but something completely different. “Slow West” is exactly that and it is anything but slow. The film may move along at its own pace but in doing so, we are better off because of it. We follow Jay (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a young Scottish lad who is head-over-heels in love with Rose (Caren Pistorius) but he is from a wealthy family whereas she is a peasant but love knows no boundaries and they see each other every day. When Jay’s uncle Rupert (Alex Macqueen) arrives one day to take him back home, Jay insists on staying with Rose and her family. Rupert is offended and disgusted with their kind and slaps Rose but after her father John (Rory McCann), pushes him away, he slips on the wet ground, smacking his head against a large rock, killing him instantly.
Upset at his uncle’s demise, Jay departs for a period of time and it is at this point that Rose and her father decide to leave Scotland and head to America where they hope to put their accidental but deadly mishap behind them. Jay saddles up and decides to follow them to the wild west where he hopes to track them down and spend the rest of his life with Rose. Along the way, he meets Silas (Michael Fassbender), a bounty hunter who travels alone but because Jay has a tendency to overshare, when Silas realizes that he knows Rose and John, both of whom already have large bounties on their heads, he says that he’ll help him reach his destination safely, with every intent on killing father and daughter once he arrives. On their travels, they encounter Indians and the old gang that Silas used to be a part of who express their disappointment at his departure. Naturally, they are headed in the same direction and when they realize that Silas and Jay know exactly where John and Rose are, it’s only a question as to who will get there first.
The movie takes place in the American wild west but it was actually shot in New Zealand and director John Maclean and cinematographer Robbie Ryan utilize the glorious landscapes and magnificent New Zealand wilderness to capture the very essence of the American plains. Fassbender plays the quintessential loner, in many ways comparable to Eastwood’s introverted man with no name that he played in a lot of his earlier westerns, complete with cigar. He has no family and no friends but after traveling with his young companion for some time, he slowly comprehends that Jay truly does love Rose and this is clearly evident in the fact that he left his homeland in Scotland to come to a country he doesn’t know which is filled with danger and uncertainty at every turn and this forces Silas to realize that there is more to life than just killing and money. The movie is slow-paced but deliberately so and while there are moments of action and shoot-outs, some quite brutal, we are constantly reminded that this is not a raucous shoot-em-up western, rather, it is a character study filled with quirky nuances and obscure conclusions.
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