Slow West

Dir: John Maclean

New Zealand

83

15

Scottish director John Maclean, whose terrific short Pitch Black Heist (once an ICO Short of the Month before going on to win a BAFTA!) also starred Michael Fassbender, has delivered on his initial promise in spades with Slow West.

At once hilarious and brutal, this off-kilter revisionist western follows Jay, a naive young man (Kodi Smit-McPhee) stumbling across late 1800s America in search of his sweetheart. With his Walden-esque guide to surviving the Canadian frontier, Jay takes a rather cerebral, and it must be said, ineffective approach to navigating the travails of his romantic quest.

Luckily for him, along the way he has his neck saved by laconic bounty hunter Silas (Fassbender) who proceeds, for a few silver dollars, to ride shotgun, protecting his young companion from all manner of horrifying scrapes.

With its gallows humour, pitched equally between slapstick and the grotesque, gorgeous visuals and elliptical cutting, we immediately know we are in for something out of the ordinary. Depicting a catalogue of outsiders drawn from anywhere but the American West of John Ford’s iconic imagination – Scottish, Irish, Swedish, Congolese and even somewhat ironically Native Americans, now aliens in their own land – Slow West is all about defamiliarising our understanding of the region’s history and wryly exploring how bloody self-determinism rather than fate has made America the country we know today.

It’s a work of singular imagination, but if it is reminiscent of any film, it clearly shares a kindred spirit with Jim Jarmusch’s western-noir Dead Man. Like Dead ManSlow West follows a young naive man on a Blakean trip from innocence to experience – and, similarly finds that experience provides little comfort.

Booking Information

Distributor

Lionsgate Films

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