Meek’s Cutoff – review

“We’re not lost, we’re just finding our way” Stephen Meek


Finally I get round to visiting the movie theatre, I could explain why it’s been six weeks but that’s for another day. Just know that if I were to tell you, you’d accept my reasons.

I have wanted to see Meek’s Cutoff ever since it came out ages ago. Well, it finally hit Europe, and I dropped into the glorious EYE Film institute here in sunny Amsterdam to have a look.

Director Kelly Richardt has a very personal approach to filmmaking. I really enjoyed the curious minimalist charm of “Wendy and Lucy” – one of her previous films with the excellent Michelle Williams. Just a small brag here: I remember way back in the Dawson’s Creek days I predicted – to hoots of derision – that ms Williams would be a real star someday, forget Katy Holmes et al. Time has proven me right, thank the stars. She puts in another stellar performance in this slow paced, off beat western adventure.

A group of settlers with dreams of a fortune out west is lost in the great nothing. Their guide Stephen Meek is a braggard who quite clearly has no clue. We join the group in the middle of nowhere and follow a slice of their adventure. Core to this is their kidnap of a mysterious Indian who they force to guide them to water, much to the chagrin of Meek who would rather kill the man.

For those seeking an adventure complete with resolution – be it good or bad – look elsewhere. This is observation at its finest. Miss Reichardt has a real eye for scenery and using imagery to portray emotions and thoughts. No over-obvious explanations here.

Very little really happens in the film, which to some could make it boring. I did enjoy the film up to the very end, although I did check my watch a few times. And I have to admit I shared some of the dismay of the crowd when the end credits just suddenly appeared. To say more would be to spoil matters.

Special mention here for the beautiful score, all the great performances, and the use of light and dark. The passage of time is really well done by having night scenes with very minimal lights slam into daytime scenes with full desert light. I often had to literally shield my eyes from the glaring sun. The stuff of a proper movie indeed.

All in all, an interesting film which left me slightly unsatisfied in the end. For those who want to know more about the ending, here’s a post by someone who went through the trouble to translate what the mysterious Indian fellow said: