A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Slow West is a Western with a very subtle, slightly dark sense of humor. There's lots of shooting and killing, and things get very bloody; a character is shot through the hand with an arrow, and in one dark scene, two kids are shown waiting for their parents, who were just shot to death. Language includes occasional uses of "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and "bastard," plus a very mild, brief sexual reference. Characters get drunk on absinthe and wake up with hangovers; they also smoke cigars and cigarettes regularly (accurate for the era), and there's a brief reference to psychedelic mushrooms. Viewers who are at least casual fans of Westerns will best appreciate the movie, but adventurous older teens and indie film lovers may want to check it out, too.
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What's the story?
In 1870, young Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) crosses the Western frontier alone, searching for his beloved Rose (Caren Pistorius). Finding himself held at gunpoint by a band of killers, Jay is suddenly rescued by an outlaw, Silas (Michael Fassbender). Silas offers to take Jay to his destination for a fee, and off they ride. They have many strange, absurd, and troubling encounters before running into Payne (Ben Mendelsohn), a former cohort of Silas'. Then Jay learns that Rose has become a wanted outlaw, the target of bounty hunters. Jay tries to get to Rose in time to protect her, but Silas may have other plans.
Is it any good?
Writer/director John Maclean -- a musician and former member of The Beta Band -- makes a noteworthy feature debut with this Western. SLOW WEST definitely revels in the glories of the genre; it's filled with beautifully composed shots, graceful movements, and masterful uses of color, light, and dark -- not to mention striking images of man at odds with his environment. Many shots are simply beautiful, such as one in which Jay pauses to listen to some music. Others are bemused, such as when Jay wanders into the wrong camp and overhears an amusing story.
But this is no traditional Western; Maclean's taste for the absurd creeps in around the edges -- as when the characters coolly observe the corpse of a man crushed by a tree he was chopping down -- sometimes causing unexpected laughs. The cast is terrific, especially Fassbender, who makes a fine Western outlaw, even if his character is kept at a bit of a distance through murky motivations.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Slow West's violence. What effect does it have? Is it shocking? Thrilling? How does the movie achieve this? Do you think all of it is necessary to the story? Does exposure to violent movies make kids more aggressive?
What do you think makes the characters drink in this story? What are the consequences? Are they realistic?
What's the appeal of the Western genre? Why is it less popular now than it once was? Is it still a worthwhile genre?
Is Jay a role model? Why or why not?
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