The Tribeca Film Festival 2015 kicked off this week and we'll be bringing you our screening adventures. Here's Jason on Michael Fassbender's new Western.
Jay Canvendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) sees the world through rose-colored lenses - that is to say, the name of his on-the-lam paramour is Rose and he sees the world colored by his love for her. In flashbacks we come to sense that Rose's feelings towards Jay are somewhat different, but that's not slowing him down. He will find her and everything will be fine, for their love is a grand and true thing.
Slow West ekes its enviable tension out of dropping Jay's love-dumb perspective down into the Movie Wild West we all know only too well - or think we do, until this movie gets to toying with it - with its brutes and indifference to beauty; what bubbles up is a bizarre, Coen-esque journey of colorful characters marching tho their own drumbeat... usually right across the open wound of Jay's ever-singing heart.
Nobody more than his protector and companion Silas (Michael Fassbender), who signs up for a hefty price (namely every last cent in Jay's designer wallet) to get him safe along the long road westward to his lady love and spends the the first half of the trip trying to carve some hard sense into the boy. Jay's romanticism, which infects every frame of director John Maclean's gorgeously lensed film (New Zealand stands in for Colorado and it shows in the fantastically-spiced landscape - if Tolkein had dreamed up Shane this is what we'd maybe have seen), eventually proves too much for Silas to true grit his teeth against though, and even the hardened gunslinger softens a bit in the face of such steely porcelain sweetness.
Fassbender and Smit-McPhee have an appealing oddball chemistry, two lanky scarecrows bouncing along on horseback - one china-doll clean, the other bronzed and whittled down by the desert winds. They could be brothers, from another alien mother. The actors find unexpected ways to play off each other, keeping the film's main relationship surprising at every turn, much like the fascinating and arch world around them keeps us guessing at what's coming around every bend. By the time Ben Mendelsohn shows up in his foot-thick bear coat waving around a bottle of absinthe it's pretty clear we've all signed on to a gorgeous but deadly fever dream.