This was another one of those films that was well received by critics and I was interested in watching it when it came out, but it annoyingly didn’t come to my local cinema. So finally, it got watched this afternoon and I have to say that within the first few minutes, I was worried that I wouldn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. However, these fears were soon assuaged as I began to “get” the film and appreciate the craft involved.
First of all, writer/director John McClean has said that he was influenced by various European films and also by Japanese cinema and film noir. While I’m not too sure about the noir, it is apparent that “Slow West” is something of a love letter to European art films, clearly featuring characters of different nationalities and generally creating that kind of atmosphere (apologies for not properly explaining this, it’s hard for me to describe!) The Japanese influence is also noticeable, since the story is akin to a Samurai film and it contains a certain sense of meditative philosophy and thought. Finally, this film is very reminiscent of Jim Jarmusch’s “Dead Man”, both films contain similar characters, themes and general ambiance. All of this is very admirable and definitely adds to the film’s merits.
The locations used in this film are praiseworthy as well; shooting in New Zealand allows us to see the American West as we know it, but it is also very different at the same time; choosing New Zealand was clearly a very smart move. The story of “Slow West” is also relatively simple and this allows the intelligent script to shine through, as well as the performances, which are all great. The music is also very good.
In summary, this is an impressive debut from writer/director John McClean; “Slow West” is a solidly made, thoughtful, smart film. It avoids a great deal of cliches and will definitely appeal to fans of world cinema, westerns and road movies.