The Hidden Tension of Meek’s Cutoff

meekscutoff

Don’t be fooled by the dusty period garb and rattling wagon trains- Meek’s Cutoff is far from a typical Western and infinitely more intriguing. The film, based on real-life events, revolves around three couples who have hired self-proclaimed frontiersman Stephen Meek (an unrecognizable Bruce Greenwood) to lead them to wealth and prosperity in the West. As the two-week journey stretches into five, the party’s once-strong resolve begins to fade. Director Kelly Reichardt explores the philosophical and existential qualities of the traveler’s ever-worsening journey through the eyes of the female settlers and garners incredibly strong performances from the cast, which includes Zoe Kazan as Paul Dano’s high-strung wife Millie and Michelle Williams as steely-eyed Emily. The capture of a lone Indian stirs the slow-boiling plot and serves as the tipping point for Williams, who becomes the pragmatic voice of dissent to an increasingly dangerous Meek. As the thirsty group soldiers on, dwarfed by a stripped down landscape of hardscrabble plains and rocky valleys, their silent passage reflects the blind determination and stoic realism that formed the bedrock of our nation. Though it ends on an abruptly vague note, Meek’s Cutoff stands as a thoughtful and meticulous exploration of the will to survive and the courage it takes to do so.

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