"Love like death is essential" - Jay Cavendish
Walking into the cinema...
Michael Fassbender and Ben Mendelsohn in a western makes this film tantalising. Can an Australian film company capture the heart of the western spirit?
Arthouse rating: 2.5 stars*
Cinematic rating: 2 stars
Big question opportunities: 3 stars
ReviewJay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is in love. His love compels him to travel around the world to find Rose Ross (Caren Pistorius). Rose and her father have to flee Scotland due to an event that find them on the wrong side of the law and a wealthy land owner of Scotland. They escape to the United States, but as wanted fugitives, they carry a $2000 bounty on their heads. Slow West is a quest for Jay to find his beloved Rose, but he has to travel through the untamed west of 19th century America. On his journey he becomes the ward of a mysterious traveller named Silas (Michael Fassbender). They find their way through the wilds of the West which includes staying ahead of a gang of bounty hunters and avoiding rogue native Americans. On the frontier trail to Rose, they find out more about one another, more about what love will cause people to do and ultimately, who to trust.
The artistry of Slow West cannot be denied due to the cinematography and the lead performances. The scenery is convincing as Colorado and provides the necessary distraction from the slow storyline and director John Maclean manages to get convincing performances from Fassbender, Smit-McPhee and Ben Mendelsohn (Black Sea) despite the under-developed script. Maclean’s maiden venture in the director’s chair is rudimentary and simplistic, which seems to be lived out in the youthful, naivety of his lead character, Jay Cavendish. Placed on the beautiful canvas of New Zealand, Maclean attempts to paint a beautiful vision of love that strives to overcome great odds but delivers a paint by numbers simplistic tragedy. The introduction of the marauding band of bounty hunters offer potential depth and humour to this journey through the West, but never quite get pass the typical Western stereotypes. The humorous gunslinging tale around the camp fire was not enough to spark this woeful adventure. In the end, Slow West was not an unpleasant experience, but not a cinematic triumph. The primary reason to consider seeing it would be to enjoy the performances by Fassbender and Mendelsohn. Otherwise it goes into the category of an acceptable, but forgettable outing for a new director.
Despite Slow West being a mediocre cinematic experience, it does provide room for potential discussion. Key themes of love, death, redemption and guidance in life permeate the narrative. Jay Cavendish’s romantic view of the world and youthful view of love provides a window into a world that romanticises life. It shows that love is a necessity for existence in this world and can drive people to attempt the impossible. The storyline shows that the key to achieving the impossible is a reciprocation of this love from someone else. The film proves that humans ultimately fail when it comes to achieving this reciprocal love due to the human condition, but the love of God can fulfil this need beyond any human experience The love that Jay Cavendish sought in Rose cannot be fully found in this lifetime, but the love that is satisfying and everlasting can be found through the love of God. This may sound simple or naive, but throughout history God has proven to be the only source of true love.
Leaving the cinema...
Michael Fassbender takes command of this journey and the film, but his performance could not save this sluggish script. The landscape and the supporting cast give the film the background and potential depth, but this tragic tale suffers from a lack of character development and pacing. The characters and story may be on horseback throughout Slow West, but the experience becomes a pedestrian outing by new director John Maclean.
Reel Dialogue: What are the bigger questions to consider from this film?
1. Why is love essential to life? (Matthew 22:26-40, 1 Corinthians 13)
2. Can we find redemption for our lives? (Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14)
3. Why do we need a guide through life? (Psalm 32:8, John 16:13)
Written by Russell Matthews based on a five star rating system @ Russelling Reviews #russellingreviews #slowwest