In the uncompromising terrains of the old American West, mute midwife Liz enjoys a humble existence with her young daughter, independently minded stepson and loyal, devoted husband. Seemingly content with her life, Liz’s eyes nonetheless betray a quiet sadness, suggesting a previous life fraught with pain and anguish. One day in church, her delicate peace is shattered when she hears the ominous, Dutch-tinged drawl of the town’s new preacher. Instantly recognising the man she had so desperately hoped to have escaped, Liz must prepare to protect both herself and her family from the the reverend’s merciless grasp.
Told in four distinct chapters, writer/director Martin Koolhoven’s extraordinary western is a ferociously rendered, richly-evocative tale of bloodshed and retribution driven by Dakota Fanning’s remarkable turn. Imbuing Liz with a quiet fragility and steely determination, Fanning’s tenacious frontierswoman instantly joins the ranks of cinema’s most compelling Western heroines. Memorable support is provided by a stellar cast including Kit Harington and Carice van Houten, while special mention must go to Guy Pearce – channeling Robert Mitchum in The Night of the Hunter – for his terrifying portrayal of Liz’s unrelenting nemesis. With a visual lyricism in striking contrast to the gruelling violence on screen, this deeply affecting tale of moral reckoning is often difficult to watch, but impossible to forget.