Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Mendelsohn
Directed by: John Maclean (debut)
Written by: John Maclean (debut)
In “Slow West,” Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a 16-year-old from Scotland, is making his way across America to track down the girl he loves. Along the way, Jay bumps into Silas (Michael Fassbender), a mysterious man of questionable morality. After being cornered, Jay agrees to pay Silas to get him across the country safely.
Despite it’s hasty 84-minute runtime, “Slow West” is surprisingly a slow burn. More character study than traditional Western, first-time writer and director John Maclean turns most of his focus on the unlikely relationship of Jay and Silas. It may be a stretch to call “Slow West” a coming-of-age story, but Smit-McPhee is able to bring a certain naivety to the character of Jay that juxtaposes nicely against the grit, “seen it all” quality of Fassbender’s Silas. Performances are great across the board, which is no surprise considering Fassbender’s track record.
As a snapshot into the late 1800s, “Slow West” is occasionally compelling, if not a little unmemorable. Though the plotline of the traveling love story never really develops, enough interest is mined from the interaction between Smit-McPhee and Fassbender and the evolving and forced transition into manhood to make the film worth a look. Maclean should be applauded for cramming solid characterization into the short amount of time he uses, and shows some definite promise as a filmmaker. If nothing else, “Slow West” succeeds as a cautionary glimpse into the perils of being in the friend zone, even in the old West.