If you need a break from the all the noise that will surely accompany Thor‘s hammer this weekend, take a walk on the quiet side with Meek’s Cutoff, which opens today at the new Violet Crown Cinema. (Has anybody checked out Violet Crown yet? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts!)
While the Oregon Trail may have seemed fun when I was fording streams in my favorite elementary school computer game, it looks anything but in Meek’s Cutoff, in which the stakes each and every day are literally find water or die. These pioneers are headed in search of a new settlement and are led by Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood), who is about as unreliable as they come, and the entire movie is set during their journey. It’s a quiet movie with big landscapes and strong turns by a cast that includes Will Patton, Shirley Henderson, Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan and is ably led by Michelle Williams. Who would have guessed that Jen Lindley would become the best actress out of the Dawson’s Creek kids? But Michelle Williams has consistently proven herself, especially in last year’s absolutely heartbreaking Blue Valentine.
The film is helmed by Kelly Reichardt, who also directed Michelle Williams in 2008‘s Wendy and Lucy, a film that has been sitting on my Instant Queue for more than a year but that I am too scared to watch because I know it involves a woman losing her dog, and I don’t handle those things well. (Coincidentally, some friends told me just this week that they didn’t think I could survive the zombie apocalypse if a life-or-death situation required me to shoot a dog.)
Meek’s Cutoff only employs dialogue sparingly, but the unflinching view of daily life during their journey and the rough landscapes combine to create a quiet tension that will have you on the edge of your seat, especially as discord begins to settle in among the group. I wouldn’t call the ending satisfying, but it’s definitely different than anything else you’re likely to see in the theater this year.
Check out the trailer.