(director/writer: Viggo Mortensen; cinematographer: Marcel Zyskind; editor: Peder Pedersen; music: Viggo Mortensen; cast: Viggo Mortensen (Holger Olsen), Vicky Krieps (Vivienne Le Cloudy), Solly McLeod (Weston Jeffries), Garret Dillahunt (Alfred Jeffries), Colin Morgan (Lewis Cartwright), Ray McKinnon (Judge J. Blagden), W. Earl Brown (Alan Kendall), Atlas Green (Little Vincent), Danny Huston (Rudolph Schiller); Runtime: 129; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Viggo Mortensen, Jeremy Thomas, Regina Solorzano; SHOUT! STUDIOS; 2023)

“It’s a somber but easy going romantic mid-19th century western.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The great actor Viggo Mortensen (“Falling”) is the musical composer, director, writer and star in this old-school western with a modern-day feminist take. It’s a somber but easy going romantic mid-19th century western. Most of the film is told in flashback.

The laconic Holger Olsen (Viggo Mortensen) is a widowed Danish immigrant in the prewar days of the 1860s. He works in San Francisco as a carpenter, and is a military veteran. He meets Vivienne Le Coudy (Vicky Krieps), an independent-minded French-Canadian woman, after she has just broken off a relationship with a wealthy but offensive art-dealer (Colin Morgan).

The couple move in together in Olsen’s humble shack in a frontier town in Nevada, as he gets work as a carpenter. Vivienne works in the town’s saloon bar. One of the bar patrons is the town’s crooked mayor, Rudolph Schiller (Danny Huston), who is complicit in the unlawful affairs of the town’s leading citizen, the crooked land baron, Alfred Jeffries (Garret Dillahunt), and overlooks that Jeffries’s crazed son, Weston (Solly McLeod, Brit actor), is a violent thug.

As the civil war approaches, the tensions within this frontier community increases. When the Civil War starts, Holger impulsively enlists, leaving his vulnerable wife on her own. That’s a bad decision, as Solly brutally rapes Vivienne and she gives birth to his son.

After the war, Olsen comes home and learns his wife was raped and is raising the boy (Atlas Green). Meanwhile Solly has left town after killing a few Mexicans. Though wanting to kill the rapist, Olsen raises the boy as his son and has a good marriage. He then becomes the town sheriff.

Both Viggo and Krieps give commanding sympathetic performances in this fine film, that is emotionally sound and dramatically intriguing.
It played at the Toronto International Film Festival.

REVIEWED ON 4/12/2024  GRADE: B+