Starring Ben Mendelsohn (Killing them Softly, Animal Kingdom) and the always captivating Michael Fassbender, new film Slow West is a beautifully shot Western pastiche from first time director John Maclean.
Slow West: Fassbender & Smit-McPhee
When butter-wouldn't-melt teen Scot aristocrat Jay (Kodi Smit-McPhee) decides to make the perilous trip across the Atlantic to track down his long lost love, he arrives alone and naive in the brutal landscape of aboriginal America, only to meet Silas (Fassbender) a grizzly, introverted traveler with a hard attitude. Cue the age-old Western set up (think True Grit) of unlikely partners trekking across nineteenth-century America’s harsh and unforgiving countryside.
John Maclean: film director
Indeed this brutal landscape plays a key role in the movie, signifying the hard nosed desperation of life on the frontier: this is a place where even the most sympathetic of characters are driven to sidestep moral niceties in the name of survival.
Although the story itself is gripping in its own right, debut director John Maclean has been incredibly playful with the genre. The joke of the film’s title, Slow West, soon becomes apparent in the consciously overdrawn opening sequence. Smit-McPhee plays the poetic innocent perfectly, and the subsequent dialogue and stylised, dreamy script – 'In a short time, this will be a long time ago' – retains a wry smile of irony throughout the film.
Slow West film review
Scenes of grisly brutality jar disturbingly with the glittering and colourful landscape in which they take place, constantly throwing into question notions of Western colonialism "packaged under the guise of the arts", and in doing so, make an ironic comment on Slow West's own self-indulgence. This alleviation of North American national guilt for its dark origins is never granted; everything is undercut by ironic disdain.
In turn, the references to Scotland (harked by frequent unidealised flashbacks of a rocky an overcast landscape) eliminate this perceived insularity of colonial guilt: here all are to blame, all are punished: in this harsh, figurative landscape, there's no respite.
A comic satire of the Western genre; a tragedy tinged with irony and an Odyssean coming-of-age saga, there's a lot packed into this ninety-minute film: one of the best new Western movies to come to UK cinemas. We loved it. ★★★★★
|Slow West: film Q&A Curzon Soho
|Curzon Soho, 99 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 5DY | MAP
|Leicester Square (underground)
On 26 Jun 15, Curzon Soho Q&A with Director John Maclean, 6.30pm
|Click here to book via the Curzon Soho website