Meek's Cutoff

Director: Kelly Reichardt
Screenwriters: Jon Raymond

Institute History

  • 2011 Sundance Film Festival


From her first feature, River of Grass, which premiered at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival, to her subsequent works, Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy, and Meek’s Cutoff, Kelly Reichardt has emerged as a unique voice in cinema; it’s our pleasure to welcome her back.
Set in 1845 along the unforgiving Oregon Trail, Meek’s Cutoff follows three pioneer families who have entrusted a scout, Stephen Meek, with guiding their wagons across a supposed shortcut. Faced with dwindling water supplies, mounting uncertainty about Meek’s dependability, and growing disagreement over a captured Native American, the group begins to fray.
Reichardt’s breathtaking vision recasts the mythology of the western. Focusing on simple rhythms and daily tasks, she conveys the families’ routines (boiling water, reloading a musket, or replacing a wagon axle) with incredible detail and authenticity. The film’s unadorned aesthetic yields a morally complex drama and meditation on human nature. Set during the emergence of Manifest Destiny, it also presents an oblique, cutting comment on America and its policies today.

— John Nein

Screening Details

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