A British feminist Western? It's not a recipe to tickle the palette, and indeed, Sanders' film is scrupulously miserable. A portrait of life in a frontier brothel, where half-a-dozen whores ply their trade, this is a long way from the inane adventures of Jonathan Kaplan's Bad Girls or the diffuse poetics of Altman's McCabe and Mrs Miller. Sanders and co-writer Mottram strip away the phoney romance of the West to put the focus squarely on the women. The coupling is brusque, or brutal, or both, and the whores are no more than the chattels of the unsentimental madam (Fricker). Underneath inches of historically accurate slap, the performances just about carry it. Yes, the film serves as a stern historical corrective, yes, it scores still relevant points about the prostitution of women and refuses to stoop to melodramatic manipulation - but the narrow tonal range is forbidding, and for vast stretches nothing much happens at all.
Cast and crew
Anna Mottram, Jon Sanders