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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie's overall theme is that nothing and nobody can be truly known or understood. For every idea posited in the film, there is an equal and opposite one. For every character who has hope, another is more pessimistic. The movie introduces several problems that are never solved; thus, while thoughtful audience members will be intrigued, most viewers will be left feeling fairly negatively about the film's intentions.
Positive Role Models
Despite the movie's overall downbeat mood and themes, it has one very admirable character, Emily Tetherow -- a tough, practical woman. She can handle a rifle, and she can stand up to any man around; in fact, she's often one or two jumps ahead of anyone else with her logic and her efforts to prevent violence.
Violence & Scariness
The members of the wagon train come across a Native American; a character kicks him in the head (off screen), and some blood is seen dripping. Also some talk about whether or not to kill the Native American, as well as other violent tales told in dialogue.
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One use of the "N" word, as well as "son of a bitch."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
An adult character is seen smoking a pipe on more than one occasion (appropriate for the era).
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that although this intelligent, poetic, lyrical Western is rated PG, its slow pace and unstructured nature aren't likely to appeal to kids. The film picks up and leaves off at seemingly random points, and it lacks anything like a traditional plot arc or story. But the language is minimal (including one use of the "N" word and one "son of a bitch"), as is the violence (the worst incident takes place off screen). Still, the movie is mostly about moods and ideas -- about searching but not necessarily finding. Even if kids are already cowboy fans, this is going to be a tough sell. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The movie gives thoughtful viewers plenty to ponder, and plenty of situations in the story have two right answers, but no definitive one. This is probably Reichardt's biggest movie, with her brightest cast yet, and she gets some fine performances with her intelligent dialogue. The scenery is exquisite, even as it's harsh. It's not the witty, violent, suspenseful Western that True Grit was, but it's a small, pointed poem and very much worth the trouble.
Kelly Reichardt is definitely a director focused on mood rather than plot. Her movie Old Joy (2006) was about two friends who go on a camping trip, while Wendy and Lucy (2008) was about a young woman searching for her lost dog. Both movies have many long stretches in which seemingly "nothing" happens, and that's also the case with MEEK'S CUTOFF. The travelers keep moving, and they keep searching for water, but the ultimate point of the movie isn't about finding water -- it's about the different sides of any story and how nothing is fixed or definite.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.