|'Yes, that finale screams Anderson and yes, the twinkly, fun score throughout roots us in the world of the Coens, but the eventual film that emerges is very much something that neither of those directors would produce.'|
Running to just eighty-four minutes, it's quite amazing how many references writer/director John Maclean manages to pack into Slow West. For much of the narrative we seem to be in Coen Brothers country, as gruff semi-recognisable archetypes pop up to offer worldly wisdom and/or violence. Come the end though, we're firmly in the company of Wes Anderson-esque whimsy and stylisation, a shoot-out at a property taking place with participants popping out of golden fields like whack-a-moles.
The joy of Slow West though is in watching someone take those influences and mould them into something very much in his own image. Yes, that finale screams Anderson and yes, the twinkly, fun score throughout roots us in the world of the Coens, but the eventual film that emerges is very much something that neither of those directors would produce. Slow West has more of a sense of fun than Anderson has ever had and more whimsy than the Coens. The occasional darkness of both is here, but the way that it is used is different, glumly rooted in a world of unfortunate coincidences and muddled minds.
The catalyst for this is the traditional journey 'out West', which Maclean recasts as an absurd odyssey by Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) to find the girl (Caren Pistorius) everyone involved can see doesn't actually love him. Jay typifies Maclean's deconstruction of the myth of the West; this isn't a romantic place for lovers to find themselves and riches to be made, it's a ragtag band of folks who'll kill to stay alive and who, largely, have no idea where they are or how they got there. A resounding image of the film involves Jay slowly rotating a piece of paper with the word 'West' and an arrow on.
Into his sphere comes Silas (Michael Fassbender) an antihero mentor-cum-bounty hunter with a bead on the capture of Rose (Pistorius) to make his fortune. Maclean's misstep in this situation is to draw a little too strongly on Jay's father issues, which are eventually writ large, should you have missed them. The conclusion though seems to rectify this and fits in with the film as a whole; it's entirely natural, wryly funny and obviously tragic in the amount of imbecility involved. Maclean's second feature is awaited with some anticipation.