Set in 1845 and based on a real man who helped people cross the Oregon trail, the images of Kelly Reichardt‘s new effort Meek’s Cutoff leaves its audiences breathless. Meek (Bruce Greenwood) and three families cross a river, where the blues and yellows of this riverside scene contrast so beautifully, the first of many visual contrasts within the film like as the bright costumes and the night and day scenes. Each actress, actor and prop is meticulously placed within the film’s full screen format. The 1.35:1 aspect ratio, an interesting choice for Reichardt, emphasize the vertical lines and shapes lost in most wide-screen films today, the latter only emphasizing the landscape and horizontal divisions within the picture plane.
We also have, in this first sequence, Thomas (Paul Dano) carving the word ‘lost’ on a rock, outlining the uncertainties of the frontier, the families becoming withered, pessimistic and doubtful of their guide. Then Emily Tetherow (Michelle Williams) finds an ‘Indian’ – she’s at first tries to shoot him but eventually becomes his ally and advocate in the group, thinking that the elegiac figure can help the group better than Meek can.
The movie sometimes doesn’t engage its audience, with its commitment to show the arid silences between wagon treks. However, the images and the subtle performances from a cast that includes Zoe Kazan, Will Patton and a firm Christian played by Shirley Henderson make watching this a memorable experience. 5/5, but I was balancing out the 2’s and 3’s I was seeing.