For Reel

Meek’s Cutoff (2010)
June 13, 2011, 6:25 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Kelly Reichardt

The titular Mr. Meek is an arrogant, stubborn patriarch who, despite the reassurance he gives to those whom he guides, has clearly led his caravan to their almost sure death. A film of this nature, with its spare landscape and life-or-death stakes in nearly every frame, can often be suffocating – but, unlike Peter Weir’s The Way Back, for instance, Reichardt masterfully crafts a handful of characters and allows tension to rise through minimal dialogue. Though westerns of this sort are typically shot in widescreen, Reichardt boldly presents the film in the Academy ratio – rather than extending the frame to illuminate the space around the characters, she restricts their mobility even further. The film has been called a feminist western and, indeed, Michelle Williams is not only the brightest character of the bunch, but also the most compassionate. Moreover, Meek’s masculinity is often challenged while the group questions his legitimacy as a guide. In several scenes early on, the men huddle together to discuss their next move while the camera, reflecting the point-of-view of the women, is set at a distance without picking up the audio of the male plotting. Reichardt clearly intends to give the audience the subjective perspective of the female characters and, for that reason, we are constantly aware that they can offer greater intellectual contributions to the caravan than they have been given the opportunity to.

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