Review: Slow West


Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender) has made camp for the night and the fire is almost burned out. Silas is filling gun powder into cartridges while Jay is laying on his back, looking at the night sky. Jay says: “Same stars, same moon. One day we’ll be wonderin’ ’round that moon. They’ll build a railroad. A railroad up and down the ways.” Jay is gesticulating with his hands, his eyes focused on the sky while Silas is ignoring him. “A railroad to the moon. And when we get there, first thing we’ll do is hunt the natives down.” “No Indians on the moon.” Silas says. “No the natives of the moon. The moon people.” Silas puts down one of the cartridges and you can just make out that he is effected by what Jay said. Something cracks in the forest and the quickly forget their conversation.

Set in 1987 Colorado, Kodi Smit-McPhee does a great role as Jay Cavendish, the young aristocratic Scotsman, alone on the American frontier, searching for his lost love. Like a jackrabbit in a den of wolves, as Silas describes him in, Jay is an idealist and a romantic, gazing up at the stars in the belief that love will always prevail. The Wild West is a dangerous place for a young and naive boy, but along comes Silas Selleck played by Michael Fassbender, a hard faced Clint Eastwood but with feelings and depth. Fassbender, very skillfully, plays a classic renegade cowboy that slowly show more and more personality until he takes over the roles as the protagonist of the film. For a large sum of money Silas offers to take Jay the place where he thinks his love Rose is at, but the Wild West is a place of deception, dishonesties and deceit and we know it’s not going to be as easy as that for a naive boy in love.

The writer and director John Maclean said in an interview that, in his own experience, the night sky is a big part of the American West. People look up at the sky, trying to find aliens and thing, yet it’s not often seen in Western films and he wanted to add that. And he did and it brought, with great result, a romantic and poetic feeling to the film. The reflections of something more and bigger made the huge west feel small and mystic in comparison, but it also made the world feel so much bigger from the eyes of the young Jay Cavendish.

The title, Slow West, don’t really do the film justice as it can jump in and out of action or comedy in a blink of an eye. But calling it a classic western don’t really do it justice either. This is a beautiful film that really dares to take it’s time to show us the stunning New Zeeland in a melancholy kind of way. Combine that with the unpredictable event and you get scenes that builds suspense in a calm kind of way. You never know if it’s going to be a “slow” scene that builds depth or if something is going too happened. Haven reflected over this, maybe Slow West isn’t such an unjust name after all, it’s a classic western film that’s not afraid to take its good old time.

– Thomas Tjerngren