Meek’s Cutoff Traffics in Spare Story, Stark Visuals
- Monday, May 23, 2011
Earlier this year, Peter Weir’s epic The Way Back told a man-against-nature story set against a vast, threatening landscape. But that film was about more than an elemental struggle: Weir’s characters were also fighting a dehumanizing belief system that sought to eliminate religion, and with it, hope.
Reichardt’s and Raymond’s story is similarly emblematic. The characters’ pioneering spirit and determination represent the American drive to settle the land, but also to eliminate or exploit threats to that goal. What motivates these Bible-spouting, grace-saying hymn singers to follow Meek? The reasons behind their journey are never fully explained, and the role faith plays in their decision-making is open to interpretation. But the expressions of faith, even from Meek himself, are heartfelt and moving, even though the characters act in ways that are less than charitable. In Meek, an unrecognizable Greenwood—a character actor best known for his role as Pike in the recent Star Trek reboot—has given one of his finest performances, a man who abides by his convictions even when they appear to be leading him and his followers astray.
Meek’s Cutoff is less interested in the motives behind its characters’ journey than it is in what the journey brings out in them. In stark, beautiful images (the film was shot by Chris Blauvelt), the viewer is made to identify with the characters—particularly Emily—as they head toward an uncertain fate. The film lacks resolution, but suggests that no matter how lush or verdant their destination might be, the costs of arriving at it should not be soon forgotten.
- Language/Profanity: The “n” word; “son of a b-tch”; “redskin”; a reference to “squaws” who start “looking white”; “heathen”; “lucky savage.”
- Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: Some smoking.
- Sex/Nudity: None.
- Violence/Crime: A man is struck in the face; a woman uses a shotgun to fire a warning shot; later, she levels it at another man who is pointing a gun at someone else; Meek wants to kill the Indian guide, and he relays horror stories about the Indians’ treatment of the white man to make his case.
- Religion/Morals: A boy reads aloud from Genesis; Jimmy’s mom labels exaggerating “the neighbor to a lie”; Meek says he doesn’t want to paint himself as anything other than a sinner, and he looks down on another character who, he says, is worse than a sinner; Emily says she sees only vanity; singing of “Nearer My God to Thee”; a man says grace and prays for protection and guidance in Jesus’ name.
Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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