Slow West, directed by John Maclean is a simple, yet heart filled film. Though it omits some of the more helpful building blocks for concise storytelling, it does in the end; deliver something different and more satisfying than is first expected.
The story of Slow West sees us following a young Scottish boy named Jay Cavendish (Played by Kodi Smit-McPhee) as he travels to the west of America in search of his one true love, Rose Ross (played by Caren Pistorius). On his journey he meets a drifter named Silas Selleck (played by Michael Fassbender) who unexpectedly offers to help the young boy find his love. Things are of course not as they seem, as we learn that more than just Jay Cavendish seek the young Rose Ross, but their end goal is one with a more definitive end to it.
What I found to be an interesting back and forth that I kept having with the film and its handling of characters throughout was that it never seemed to fully commit, but in turn still give me a more subtle idea of who these odd people where. What I mean by that, is the film is chalk full if unique, diverse characters. This is the wild plains of America, and so everyone that you encounter in the film is as different as the last. No two characters are alike, and that constant refresh of characters is… well refreshing.
Having said that, there is one problem with every single character in this film, while they’re all so very different, and having such a diverse line up of characters is certainly a joyful experience when watching a film like this. The problem that continuously reared its head was underdevelopment. From the main character, Jay Cavendish, all the way down to the antagonist of the film Payne (played by Ben Mendelsohn), no one is never given enough time to ever make them a fully fleshed out character. It became really frustrating after a while, when there would be long scenes, scenes that would be perfect moments for diving a little deeper into this unique bunch of people, but instead it would focus on something irrelevant or silly.
The film didn’t need to do much for the characters, it didn’t need grandiose scenes, laden with exposition or strenuous flash backs that reveal every single tick of the character, just a little information, something to make the characters feel more real was all. The perfect thing to help back this up is the story in Slow West. To put it simply, the story in the film is as bare bones as you could get, and unlike the situation with the characters, it was the perfect decision for this film. Slow West wastes no time getting to the main story, it jumps in immediately and gets going, no unnecessary set up, just going, continuously moving towards the end goal that the film sets up at the beginning. This works perfectly for the film and that ever moving pace of the film keeps the film fresh and interesting.
What had to my absolute favourite aspect of Slow West though, was just how beautifully shot the film was and the artistic choices it made at certain points throughout the film. Slow West is a visual delight, never choosing conventional shots, setting up characters and set pieces in funny and interesting ways, so much of the design of the film goes against the norm and I loved every second of that. At the end of the film (no spoilers) there is an action set piece that almost looked and played out like a beautifully choreographed dance. The movement of the characters, the setup of the camera, everything came together in such a wonderfully different way. I truly believe that the uniqueness of how this film was shot, structured and in the end put together helped elevate it to more than just a bare bones film.
Despite some of the noticeable short comings of Slow West, I still think this is a film worth seeing, and is one that I would recommend. There is a subtle brilliance to this film, one that should be seen.