The Western is one of the most widely recognized genres of American film. From John Wayne to Clint Eastwood, some of the most iconically masculine actors in Hollywood have emerged due to their exposure in the genre. With horses, guns, ten-gallon hats, dusty terrain, and damsels in distress, the Western is a world of boys, built by boys, catering to boys. But in 2015's Slow West , director John Maclean attempts to turn that trope on its head, and offer up a Western heroine that will surprise — and delight — audiences.
Slow West , which had its premiere at Sundance Film Festival and took home the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic from the festival, follows: A bright-eyed Scottish teen who travels across the United States looking for the love of his life, who has a bounty on her head, in the 1800s. He's met with resistance from a bounty hunter (Michael Fassbender) or two (Ben Mendelsohn), and must make it to his beloved's before he (or she) is killed.
But John Maclean [mild spoilers ahead] begs the question, does she even want to be rescued? Our lone female character, Rose, never asks to be followed or chased, she never reaches out for help, and she certainly never asks how to load and shoot a rifle. She's just as competent as the boys, if not more so.
"The inspiration for Rose came from a negative, a feeling that even in 2015 a lot of women are damsels in distress," Scottish director John Maclean says. "I felt like, 'C'mon'!"
"There was a really interesting film called Meek's Cutoff that came out a few years ago. The women in that, they are very in the background. But the one thing is that the men are constantly messing up in that film. The women don't suddenly save the day like in my film, but there is something about the men bringing all this violence and trouble to the women, and the women have to deal with it," he says. "Rather than being influenced by certain things, this was a reaction against the way women are portrayed in Westerns."
So how does Rose save the day? See Slow West, in theaters May 15 and on DIRECTV now. Watch the trailer below:
Image: A24; YouTube