Imagine a collaboration between John Ford and Wallace Stevens and you might get a sense of what Kelly Reichardt pulls off here: a sincere re-creation of the pioneer experience, brought to life through careful, often unexpected detail.
There are stretches that are, frankly, boring. But the vivid details and intimacy you develop with these travelers sticks with you, leaving you in awe of the insane feats people had to accomplish in order for us to enjoy the world we know today.
[Kelly Reichardt has] taken on her biggest budget (essentially a thicker shoestring) and most recognizable cast yet, while fully retaining her patient, deliberate approach to narrative and attentiveness to nature as a character.
Recalls Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man and even Werner Herzog's Aguirre: The Wrath of God in its evocation of frontier surrealism and manifest-destiny madness; the Reichardt approach is, however, more stringent and pointed in its weirdness.