Slow West

WESTERN; 1hr 24min

STARRING: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Michael Fassbender, Caren Pistorius, Ben Mendelsohn

Going West: Fassbender (left) and Smit-McPhee

Cultured 16-year-old Scotsman Jay Cavendish (Smit-McPhee) is a long way from home and there’s nothing refined about where he’s landed. The American West of 1870 (in reality a multifaceted New Zealand) is the lawless heartland of a feral far horizon. Jay has rashly journeyed there in search of his love, Rose Ross (Pistorius), who fled Scotland with her father (Rory McCann) following a calamity.


Being open of heart and spindly of limb, Jay is ill-equipped to handle the gypsies, tramps and thieves who prowl across his path (Mendelsohn being a prime case). Wolfish outsider Silas Selleck (Fassbender), on the other hand, can handle just about anyone, even while chomping calmly on a cheroot. He teams up with Jay for a fee and their progress is predictably erratic.


Slow West has the gnarly, fateful, bullet-riddled texture of a worn-in western, its men and women stripped bare as bones and death its cheapest currency. But its ethos — evocatively written and directed by feature first-timer John Maclean, thoughtfully narrated by Fassbender, packed with snake-bellied star turns and scored with delicate melancholy — is a meditation on resoluteness.