A young Scottish man travels across America in pursuit of the woman he loves, attracting the attention of an outlaw who is willing to serve as a guide.
‘Slow West’ is an inventive western from first time director John Maclean, previously known as a musician in Scottish bands ‘The Beta Band’ and ‘The Aliens’. The film follows a young Scotsman, Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee, with a more than passable attempt at the accent), who travels to America to track down his young love, Rose (Caren Pistorius), encountering various bandits and bounty hunters along the way. He forms a tentative alliance with Silas (Michael Fassbender), who has his own motives for finding Rose and her father John (Rory McCann).
The film is short, snappy and well paced, delivering a fairly straightforward story with well developed twists and a good dose of dark comedy. Maclean has assembled a strong cast, with Ben Mendelsohn delivering a typically great performance in a supporting role, and Smit-McPhee and Fassbender bouncing off each other well as they set off to track down Rose and John. The film also doubles as a coming of age tale for Jay, eschewing the traditional sweetness of the genre to emphasise the harshness of the western landscape. It never feels like we’re too far away from an outbreak of extreme violence and ‘Slow West’ does a good job of showcasing what this fraught landscape can do to a man’s psyche. The action is complimented by an excellent soundtrack from Jed Kurzel, which plays with traditional western motifs yet gives them a slightly Scottish flavour. One suspects that Maclean’s musical background perhaps had some influence here!
Overall, I found ‘Slow West‘ to be an extremely enjoyable and quirky western and an excellent debut from John Maclean that marks him out as one to watch. I’ll certainly look forward to seeing what he does next.
Directed By: John Maclean
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Mendelsohn, Caren Pistorius and Rory McCann