Mainstream audiences have been a little starved of Westerns in recent years – with the notable exceptions of Quentin Tarantino’s glorious Django Unchained and the Coen brothers remake of True Grit, pickings have been slim. As a dying mainstay of American genre film, it’s always intriguing to see how filmmakers attempt to return to it and make it relevant to modern audiences. Slow West comes from the strictly minimalist style-school – it keeps dialogue and plot to an absolute minimum, focusing almost entirely on mood and imagery, with predictably mixed results.

Nihilism in this milieu is not unusual or inherently problematic, but this film takes its time to an almost painful degree (which may well be the point). It’s grim and unforgiving, which is also certainly deliberate, and it makes no attempt to be subtle about its contrived, artful compositions and cinematography, which sadly gives it an air of pretentiousness from the start that it never quite shakes, and what little attempts at humour it contains are often bizarrely awkward (one character literally has salt spilled into his wound after seeing something heartbreaking). Thankfully, it boasts an exquisite set piece at the end which transcends what has gone before.

A welcome rare outing for a much-neglected genre8
A clear decision to play things very arty, with rich cinematography and a carefully-balance tone7
Genuinely one of the slowest, most ponderous films I've ever seen5
Self-consciously arthouse to the point of completely lacking self-awareness4
An astonishing finale set in a farmhouse surrounded by cornfields that makes the journey more than worthwhile9
Bechdel Test Passes
  • n/a
Bechdel Test Failures
  • Only features one named female character
7Overall Score

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