Film » Film Features

Western Zen

It isn't about where Meek's Cutoff is going, it's about how it gets there

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In the hypnotic western Meek's Cutoff, three families follow the advice of Wild West wrangler Meek (Bruce Greenwood) and splits from a wagon train on a shortcut west. They're already lost when the movie begins, walking through arid stretches of Oregon looking for water.

But Meek's Cutoff is less western than road movie, and less interested in the journey or destination than what happens in the mind. The families start off almost interchangeable. They’re all leaving something behind and searching for something different. Under Meek’s questionable guidance, they walk by day and sleep by night.

Director Kelly Reichardt frames this nearly repetitive journey against a backdrop that constantly vibrates between the breathtaking and the hostile, depending on what is or isn’t going on. And like these travelers, you’re not quite sure what’s going to happen next. But getting to that point has left you irrevocably changed. --Bret McCabe

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