• James Rutherford

'Slow West': An Offbeat Western About a Mismatched Duo Trekking Across The American West


Movie poster for the 2015 film Slow West

Slow West (2015) is an offbeat Western film starring Kodi Smit-McPhee as Jay Cavendish, a young Scotsman trekking across 19th century America in pursuit of the woman he loves. Deeply smitten with Rose Ross (Caren Pistorius) and heartbroken when she absconds with her father John (Rory McCann) to America, Jay crosses the Atlantic and sets off across the Great Plains alongside an Irish bounty hunter named Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender).


Jay hires Silas as protection during his precarious trek across the hinterland, unaware that a crew of bounty hunters lead by a brute killer named Payne (Ben Mendelsohn) is pursuing Rose and her father as well. Owing to the accidental killing of a nobleman in Scotland, the Rosses have taken refuge in a quiet home on the prairies of Colorado while a $2,000 bounty has been placed on their heads—Jay soon realizing that he is unintentionally leading the killers directly to their location.


Written and directed by Scottish filmmaker John Maclean, Slow West is a clever adventure story with a distinctively Coen Brothers-esque sense of dark humor and quirky ferocity. Fassbender shines as the morally ambiguous Silas, whose brusque yet becalming presence offsets Smit-McPhee's skittishness—the pair carrying the storylines's alternatingly lyrical, melancholy and sardonic tones along the course of its 80-minute running time. In his debut feature, Maclean has given the Western genre a fresh spin and a nice creative twist, marking his territory as a promising new name on the cinematic horizon.