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Manifest West


‘…with a focus on the POV of a young female character, Manifest West is a more sensitive work that the Wrong Turn-lite posters promise…’

Kids with guns seems to be one of culture’s big themes of late; from Monos to Andor, there’s been plenty of youngsters picking up weapons as a reflection of the increasingly polarised, atavistic nature of today’s society. Writers and directors Joe Dietsch and Louie Gibson use that kind of troubling image as part of the poster campaign for Manifest West, a backwoods thriller which isn’t quite the survivalist epic that you might expect; with a focus on the POV of a young female character, Manifest West is a more sensitive work than the Wrong Turn-lite posters promise.

Manifest West is also something of a Mel Gibson family venture; behind the camera, Louie is a son of the star, while the film’s leading man Milo is another. Milo Gibson plays Dave Hayes, who moves to the countryside with his wife Alice (Milo Gibson’s wife Annet Mahendru) and daughters including ten year old Riley (Lexy Kokler). Alice has mental health issues, and a new start is required, but when times get tough, locals (Tim Heidecker from Tim & Eric) get involved, as do social services, and Dave faces the very real prospect of the kids getting turned against him by the authorities…

Things end badly, not unpredictability, but Manifest West is a very different proposition from the kind of 80’s survivalist horror that it resembles. Firstly, the danger to the family comes from their own ongoing issues, but also from the intervention of the state, and that’s more threatening than the attentions of the local yokels, sinister as they may be. While some sections of the narrative are pretty gruelling, Manifest West is also a decidedly adult in tone, and sensitive to the prism of Riley’s understanding of what’s happening to her parental unit…

Fans of the likes of Leave No Trace or Winter’s Bone will know what kind of vibe to expect here; the battle-lines are carefully drawn, and the final siege is believably played out. Dave’s final collapse as a father doesn’t quite feel carefully enough fleshed out, and his final decision to thwart social services isn’t cleanly enough telegraphed, but the strong, natural performances carry the film over the line. Manifest West may not be a lot of laughs by design, and the seriousness may narrowcast towards mature audiences, but it’s an interesting story about how a father’s natural drive to protecting his family runs the risk of becoming a mania, a la The Mosquito Coast, and gets bonus points for reflecting real world issues rather than just the usual movie moonshine. The sins of the parents shouldn’t be passed on to the young, and Manifest West makes a plea for generational understanding that’s worth hearing out.

Thanks to Samuel Goldwyn Films for advance access,  out now in theatres and streaming.


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  1. Oh nope to beards on men. Or women and children for that matter. Dirty horrible things. I’m yepping the movie though, will give it a go if it streams. Is that Ron Perlman next to Miley?

    • I can’t believe everyone is bugging up the beard content in this film. This film is not about beards. I don’t know why I bother getting up in the morning to get a series of such obtuse comments aimed at me. I should review the Lives and Times of Grizzl Adams tomorrow so you can all get your anti-beard sentiments out in the open. Sigh.

      • As you know, The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams was the first movie I saw in a cinema. On a double bill with Charlotte’s Web. His beard was much nobler than any of this trash Duck Dynasty, Mad Mel stuff. And he didn’t wear a grimy wifebeater under his plaid shirt either. At least that I remember. Though it’s been a while.

        Do you grow a beard during the World Cup? Pics please.

        • Actually shaved it off yesterday. Will save pics for next time. Too much beard speculation this morning. Other places you can go to talk beards.
          Roy Keane’s world cup beards worth a look 👀

          Think Grizzly Adam’s was my third or fourth film. Herbie Rides Again, The Jungle Book, 20000 League under the Sea, Star Wars, Close Encounters, The 39 Steps all before I was ten.

          Did Adams inspire you to be a mountain man?

  2. I tend to agree with Alex. Those beards need to be taken care of. Maybe if that father had paid more attention to his grooming, he wouldn’t have gone off the rails quite so hard.

    Hmmm, Beard Therapy. I bet I could do that and get rich quick…

  3. Will look out for this at the cinema, these being the dull days before the Xmas splash, it might find a welcome screen. And we’re short of a decent action movie now that Gerard Butler and Liam Neeson efforts seem confined to streaming.

  4. Man those beards are really off-putting. Gonna have to pass on this. My favourite kids with guns are the ones at the end of Bava’s Bay of Blood.

    I think you meant more “than” the posters promise.

    • Yup, or the kids Russian roulette games in Maps to the Stars or El Topo. Nothing good ever happens in this.

      What’s your problem with beards? Too masculine?

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