The other day I stumbled upon a movie that I really liked and nowadays, that's kind of something special. Viewers have such unbridled, instantaneous access to movies via online streaming sites like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu+, and the world of On-Demand, that it's easy to feel sort of lost in it all. That's why Slow West is such a refreshing find and a film I highly recommend seeing.
The recent Netflix and Chill social phenomenon reflects a universal truth in the world of online streaming- people get bored. We are human beings after all and with access to thousands of movies it's no surprise that we are often overwhelmed by choices. It's all too easy to re-watch beloved episodes of your favorite TV show over and over again. It's common to even hate-watch movies, like scratching some kind of guilty pleasure itch. But why do that when there's so much amazing content available at your fingertips? I deterred from that bad habit and took a chance on a movie. I watched Slow West and loved it, so much so that I've watched it several times since.
Slow West is the Western that Wes Anderson didn't have time to direct. It's the black comedy that the Cohen Brothers decided was too sweet for their taste. It's the screenplay William Faulkner wrote as a happy drunk in the 30's but never sold into production. Basically, it's the best cinematic tragicomedy I've seen in a while.
The film takes place during the 1870s in the "baking heart of America." It's the story of Jay, a young, high-born Scotsman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who travels to America in search of his true love, a young woman named Rose, whom (Caren Pistorius), due to a series of unfortunate events, is on the lam. Michael Fassbender stars as "Silas," a bounty hunter with a heart of gold who decides to accompany Jay on his journey West as he sees Jay as a "jack rabbit in a den of wolves."
Think Manifest Destiny, think Trail of Tears, think dust, think bandits, think bounty hunters, think beautiful landscapes of the Colorado prairie: tall grass, desert flowers, cracked dirt, and big, blue skies.
Over the course of their expedition, the two men come to embody the customary conflict of the realist versus the romantic. Jay is an intuitive, sensitive, and articulate young man while Silas is, at least at the beginning of the film, referred to as a 'brute.' A notable scene halfway through the film, in which Jay meets a fellow intellectual traveler, has the men exchanging news. Jay says that the East is full of "violence and suffering," a realist sentiment if ever there was one, and his comrade refers to the West as a land heavy with "dreams and toil," a slight nod to romanticism.
Slow West is a smart film and at times it almost feels like a novel. It's easy to get wrapped up in the folksy tone and the way in which the story's action gradually and elegantly builds. Slow West is a peculiar film and one worthy of being given a chance by modern audiences.