Set in the not-too-distance future in post-apocalyptic America, this title is divided into three acts, and we begin with that of Ernest Holm (Shannon), a beleaguered father to Jerome (Smit-McPhee) and Mary (Fanning), who spends his days trying to get his hands on the one most precious and literally evaporating resource on the planet; water. With the vast, unforgiving landscape and a harsh sun beating down on our protagonists, Ernest knows he must act quickly to protect his family. With a farm, he’s something of a target himself, and the conniving, vindictive Flem Lever (Hoult) wants to take full advantage, hoping to somehow knock Ernest off his perch, and take this potentially prosperous land for himself.
There’s an indelible atmosphere to this picture, as an immersive experience that will leave you with a dry mouth, desperate for a glass of water. The uncompromising, barren setting, and the dust, forming a yellow-tinged mist that obscures our vision enhances this, and allows for the viewer to believe in, and abide by this world – which is half the job done where the science-fiction genre is concerned. The effects help in that regard too, with a well-crafted, robotic mule that belongs to the family, which never threatens to take you out of the story, in spite of the modest budget.
There may be a few failed stylistic additions along the way, but Paltrow ensures that this title remains strictly about the characters. The setting is crucial, of course, and while maintaining a vital sense of context, the director deviates away to produce a more focused, intimate exploration of the characters that inhabit this world, and the varying dynamics between them. It may not be set in a world we know, but it’s very much a human tale, playing on identifiable traits we can all recognise. Like Game of Thrones – set in a world where dragons and giants live, and yet it’s those relatable idiosyncrasies and our inherent nature which allows for us to invest in the narrative at hand.
However for all of the positives on show, tedium does kick in on occasion, and the pensive, slow-burning nature of this title can be distracting at times. So despite the fact there is certainly enough here to admire, if you do only see one film this Spring with Kodi Smit-McPhee trawling through a vast, desolate landscape, make it Slow West.