Michelle Williams, Zoe Kazan and Shirley Henderson remind us that cowboys didn’t have the Wild West entirely to themselves with Meek’s Cutoff, a rare Western with a female slant. They play a trio of doughty pioneer women whose mettle is tested when their wagon train gets lost crossing forbidding terrain in 19th-century Oregon. How far should they trust their guide, boastful mountain man Meek (Bruce Greenwood), whose shortcut has got their three families into this mess?
Meek’s Cutoff doesn’t have any of the thrills and spills you usually associate with Westerns – so don’t watch expecting to see gunfights or stampedes; indie director Kelly Reichardt’s movie is as slow moving as the settlers’ wagon train itself. Be warned. Some stretches are almost as much of a slog for the viewer as they are for the pioneers. But the film does have its share of tension, particularly after the group capture a lone Indian and begin to wonder whether he might prove a more reliable guide than their blustering escort. And, inspired as it is by the authentic diaries of pioneer women, Meek’s Cutoff probably conveys a far more realistic account of what life was really like on the frontier trail than John Wayne or Clint Eastwood ever did.
Released on DVD by Soda Pictures on 8th August.