Whilst being directed by a Scot, starring both an Irishman and an Australian and shot in New Zealand, Slow West feels like a surprisingly old fashioned Western. Kodi Smit-McPhee plays Jay, a young Scottish man, who has travelled across the United States in search of his lost love. He encounters Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender) who takes the role of his chaperone, whilst aware of the $2,000 bounty on the head of Jay’s love. The two share an ambivalent relationship shared on mutual dependence, Jay’s youth certainly not fit for the harsh terrain alone and Silas doing whatever he can to earn some cash and get by.
The film’s delicious violence punctuate the morose, desolate plains, often coming at unexpected points and with surprising outcomes. The film grapples with ideas of survival and fatalism, both characters sharing a stoic countenance whilst Jay’s youth leads him towards idealism. Balancing different elements of dry humour, shocking violence and slapstick make it gloriously unpredictable. Its New Zealand landscaped substituting for the Wild West naturally adds to this off kilter feeling, yet its tone and characters maintain an essential lawlessness which give it a traditional sensibility, constantly entering unfamiliar and unexpected terrain.
Slow West is out now in the UK and 10th July worldwide. Running time 84 mins.
Review by David Rank