Autumn 2011 Features series
Sunday, October 23, 2011 at 4:00pm
Sunday, October 23, 2011 at 7:00pm
Directed by Kelly Reichardt
Screenplay by Jonathan Raymond
Starring Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood and Paul Dano
Rated NR ·
The latest film from Kelly Reichardt (Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy) is her most ambitious and accomplished yet; trading in her unvarnished portraits of contemporary America for a powerfully ambivalent look back on the Old West.
On the daunting Oregon Trail in the 1840s, shaggy, boastful trail guide Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood – Mao’s Last Dancer, Barney’s Version) leads a wagon train of three settler families – headed by Solomon and Emily Tetherow (Will Patton and Michelle Williams) – over the Cascade Mountains. Claiming to know a shortcut, Meek takes the group on an unmarked path across the high plain desert, only to wind up lost on the punishing salt flats. Their confidence in Meek shaken, and battered by hunger and thirst, the travellers start to challenge each other as they are confronted by a series of life or death choices. Teetering on the edge of desperation, they reluctantly turn to a captured Cayuse tribesman (Rod Rondeaux) who will prove to be either their undoing or their salvation.
Majestically shot in the forbidding desert landscape, Meek’s Cutoff is a brilliant, subtly feminist twist on the Western genre. Anchored by Michelle Williams’ (Blue Valentine) quietly powerful performance, Reichardt beautifully utilizes the sparse, almost Biblical landscape to create a film of enormous resonance, grace and power. “Insisting on nothing, Meek’s Cutoff operates on faith in our concern for understated yet complex issues of trust, fear, empathy, ignorance versus evil, the mystery of authority and the role of The Other in an encounter between civilizations.” (Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal)