Sunday, April 17, 2011
Director Kelly Reichardt (Wendy & Lucy) teams once again with actress Michele Williams in this minimalistic "western" about a small band of pioneers lost in the Oregon wilderness. The year is 1845 and guide Stephen Meeks has led three families off the main artery of a wagon train heading west. Ms. Williams plays Emily Tetherow, the young bride of Solomon Tetherow played by Will Patton.
Meeks is played with bluster by Bruce Greenwood (hidden under long hair and scraggy beard) who insists he can lead the group to a fertile valley. The other families are played by Paul Dano and Zoe Kasdan as The Gateleys and Shirley Henderson and Neal Huff as The Whites. The White family also has a young son, Jimmy played by Tommy Nelson. These are the main characters we watch struggle with their daily existence low on water and food. Halfway through, there is a twist on their situation that creates new tensions. There are endless shots of their wagon train enduring hardships across a barren landscape as they put their faith in Meeks to lead their way.
The film is beautifully shot with wonderful cinematography and the acting is very authentic. You find yourself forgetting there is a film crew all around these people and believe in their loneliness and struggles. Ms. Williams, as usual, shines in her role as the most assertive of the women. Not much happens as the narrative is not your typical Hollywood plot. Audiences will be very divided on this film but it does have it's charms if you accept it for what it is, a journey more than a destination.