Slow West

Slow West is a 2015 British/New Zealand[4] action western film written and directed by John Maclean in his directorial debut. It stars Kodi Smit-McPhee as a young man searching for his lost love in the American West, accompanied by a bounty hunter played by Michael Fassbender. It premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2015,[5] where it was awarded the Sundance Institute's World Cinema Jury Prize: Dramatic Winner.[6]

Slow West
UK theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Maclean
Produced by
Written byJohn Maclean
Music byJed Kurzel
CinematographyRobbie Ryan
Edited byJohn Maclean
Distributed by
Release date
  • January 24, 2015 (2015-01-24) (Sundance)
  • May 21, 2015 (2015-05-21) (New Zealand)
  • June 26, 2015 (2015-06-26) (United Kingdom[1])
Running time
84 minutes[2]
  • United Kingdom
  • New Zealand
Box office$1.3 million[3]

The film was first released on May 15, 2015 in the United States, with a simultaneous release on video on demand.[7]


Jay Cavendish, a young Scotsman, travels to the American West to search for his love, Rose Ross. He encounters a group of men chasing a Native American; an Irish bounty hunter, Silas Selleck, arrives and kills the leader. Jay employs the bounty hunter for protection.

At a trading post, unbeknownst to Jay, Silas sees a wanted poster offering a $2,000 bounty for Rose and her father. He plans to use Jay to get to the bounty. Another bounty hunter, Victor the Hawk, also takes notice of the poster. In the trading post, a Swedish couple attempt a robbery which results in the death of the owner and the man. Jay intervenes and shoots the woman. Silas and Jay gather provisions and leave, abandoning the couple's children outside.

In the past, in Scotland, Rose is aware of Jay's affection, but only cares for him as a "little brother". Jay's uncle Lord Cavendish is accidentally killed by John Ross, Rose's father, in an argument; Rose and her father leave for America with the bounty on their heads.

In the present, Jay abandons Silas and proceeds alone, thinking him a "brute". He meets a travelling writer, Werner, who offers to accompany Jay. When Jay wakes the next morning, Werner has left, stealing his horse and equipment. Silas tracks down Jay with his stolen belongings, saying he ran into Werner while looking for Jay.

The pair meet Payne, the leader of Silas's old gang, which has taken in the Swedish children. Payne gives them absinthe in a failed attempt to gather information about Rose and her father's whereabouts. While they are asleep, Silas and Jay share a dream of Silas and Rose living together with a child. They awaken to find that Payne has stolen their weapons. Silas discloses the bounty to Jay. They evade Payne's gang in a forest, where Jay is injured by Native Americans.

Rose and her father live in a nearby prairie, protected by a Native American called Kotori. Victor, disguised as a priest, tracks them down and kills Rose's father. After reaching the prairie, Silas ties Jay to a tree to keep him from harm. Silas rushes to the house to warn Rose of Payne's gang but is wounded by Victor. Payne and his men kill Victor and assault the house.

Jay frees himself and runs to the house. After Kotori and most of Payne's gang are killed, Rose realizes she has shot Jay in the confusion. While she comforts him, Payne enters the house and Jay shoots him as he dies. Silas tells Rose that Jay loved her "with all his heart". Silas stays with Rose and the Swedish children.



On September 19, 2013, it was announced that Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Ben Mendelsohn had joined the cast of Slow West, produced by Film4 Productions.[8]

Principal photography commenced on October 21, 2013 in New Zealand. Shooting also took place in Scotland around the Achiltibuie Area, set in Colorado and Scottish Highlands.[9]


The film received critical acclaim upon its premiere at Sundance. It has a score of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 131 reviews, with an average rating of 7.47/10 and a critical consensus stating, "Slow West serves as an impressive calling card for first-time writer-director John M. Maclean—and offers an inventive treat for fans of the Western."[10] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 73 out of 100, based on 27 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[11]

Rodrigo Perez of The Playlist in his review said: "Slow-burning and simmering, Slow West knows how to kick the voltage into high gear."[12] Bilge Ebiri of New York magazine gave the film a positive review, and said that it is "an absurdist, melancholy coming-of-age tale that jumps from odd comedy to striking violence to stirring reflection".[13] Michelle Orange of SBS gave the film four-out-of-five stars, and said that "Slow West is defined by a kind of loving ambivalence—about its hero, its genre, and perhaps most of all about a landscape so harsh and so beautiful it almost makes a man hope to die."[14]


  1. "'Slow West' set for UK summer release". March 19, 2015. Retrieved March 25, 2015.
  2. "SLOW WEST (15)". British Board of Film Classification. April 23, 2015. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
  3. "Slow West - Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  4. "Festival Success for New Zealand Films - New Zealand Film Commission". Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  5. "Slow West". Sundance Film Festival. Retrieved December 15, 2014.
  6. "Slow West". Tuppence Magazine. Retrieved February 12, 2015.
  7. "Michael Fassbender Saddles Up In First Trailer For Slow West". Retrieved March 24, 2015.
  8. "Michael Fassbender, Ben Mendelsohn & Kodi Smit-McPhee To Star In Western Slow West". Indiewire. September 19, 2013. Retrieved December 23, 2013.
  9. Wiseman, Andreas (October 21, 2013). "HanWay, Lionsgate board Fassbender Western". Retrieved December 23, 2013.
  10. "Slow West (2015)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 4, 2018.
  11. "Slow West (2015)". Metacritic. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
  12. "Sundance Review: Slow West Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Ben Mendelsohn". Indiewire. Retrieved February 23, 2015.
  13. "Sundance Review: Michael Fassbender Gets His Clint Eastwood On in Slow West". Vulture. Retrieved February 23, 2015.
  14. "Sundance Review: Slow West". Special Broadcasting Service. Retrieved February 23, 2015.
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