Meek's Cutoff ★★★½

My immediate feelings on this are hard to articulate, as I think I'm still processing them. I'm not sure whether it was the story itself or the way it was told that stopped me from fully connecting, but there was some kind of barrier that kept me at an uncomfortable distance. (You could say I felt slightly...cut off?) Still, I enjoyed every moment of this.

The long silences and deathly slow pace make Old Joy look like an Aaron Sorkin picture by comparison, but atmosphere takes precedence over character here so the minimalism is extremely effective (though Old Joy had great helpings of both). The wide shots which frame our characters in the context of their barren surroundings, or in relation to each other, are the only shots that matter to me in this. Miss me with that close-up shit. There's also a scene transition early on that literally made my jaw drop, and I wish Reichardt had allowed herself more moments like this in the editing booth.

As an act of revisionism (both of history and of genre), I couldn't get enough. The film's strengths lie in its subversions - the emphasis of the female perspective, the meditative quality - so it frustrated me when it felt like we were starting to tread familiar ground. We're meant to be lost, dammit! Nevertheless, the ending's unexpectedness and ambiguity pleased me and brought it all home.

Comparisons to Walkabout are apt, but I feel Walkabout isn't afraid to explore its themes more deeply, and find the poetry in doing so. Meek's Cutoff keeps things below the surface and very little above it, which makes for rewarding viewing if you're willing to put in the work, but if I'm going to all that effort I like to have a bit more to play with.

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