Meek's Cutoff

Rated PG 104 min. 2011

A haunting meditation on existence set in the Pioneer West of 1845 Oregon, Meek’s Cutoff plunges you into a reality not your own but so tactile and vivid you begin to feel its sensations. Helmed by Kelly Reichardt (Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy), the film returns to the director’s exploration of human isolation, but in this go around, she expands it to examine existence itself. There is the pregnant Glory (Shirley Henderson), her husband William White (Neal Huff), and their young son Jimmy (Tommy Nelson), plus young couple Thomas (Paul Dano) and Millie Gately (Zoe Kazan) and widower Soloman Tetherow (Will Patton) and his new wife Emily Tetherow (Michelle Williams), a woman of remarkable will and insight whose vantage guides us even as others fail. The pioneers are led into the void by a windbag, racist, and possible lunatic called Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood). As their journey continues, the families realize that Meek may have no idea where he is leading them. “Is he ignorant or is he just plain evil?” Emily wonders aloud to Soloman, and the answer is never clear. At first, Emily and the other women appear to be outsiders in their small community, but it soon becomes clear Emily is a match for any of the men. The film’s slow pace gives you a profound sense of the enormous void these people have wandered into and the nightmarishly slow progress they are making. As the pioneers move deeper and deeper into the wilderness, you begin to realize — along with them — that there is no turning back, no change of course, only the reality of heading into infinity and hoping for the best or fearing the worst. And in that regard, Meek’s Cutoff could be the most understated, and historically accurate, horror film in history. It’s both the scariest and most poetic film of the year.

Film Credits

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Director: Kelly Reichardt

Cast: Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Will Patton, Zoe Kazan, Paul Dano and Shirley Henderson


Meek's Cutoff

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