action western film written and directed by John Maclean (formerly of The Beta Band ) in his directorial debut . Starring Michael Fassbender , Kodi Smit-McPhee , and Ben Mendelsohn , the film premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2015,where it was awarded the Sundance Institute's World Cinema Jury Prize: Dramatic Winner.
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Jay Cavendish ( Kodi Smit-McPhee ), a Scottish high born boy, travels to the United States to search for his love, Rose Ross ( Caren Pistorius ). He runs into a group of former soldiers who chase and attempt to kill a Native American . The leader of the soldiers question Jay's ethnicity while his group continues the chase. A bounty hunter Silas Selleck ( Michael Fassbender ), arrives and kills all the soldiers.
Jay pays Silas for protection and reveals his connection to Rose. Unbeknownst to Jay, Silas is aware of a $2000 bounty on Rose and her father John ( Rory McCann ), and plans to use the boy to get to his bounty. Shortly after they arrive at a trading post for a meal, a Swedish man and woman attempts to rob the place for money. The owner kills the man, but gets shot by the woman. Jay shoots the woman in the back, killing her. The two hastily gather some provisions and leave, and are shocked to find the couple's children waiting outside. Jay silently put down some clothes and food in front of the children, then leaves with Silas.
A series of flashbacks reveals that Rose was aware of Jay's affection, but only cared for him as a "little brother", and was unswayed by his claim that he was the best match she would be able to find, due to her low social standing in comparison to him. One evening, he sneaked to her house, and she hid him her bed when John got home. Jay's uncle, Lord Cavendish, came to retrieve Jay. After he called Rose a peasant and slapped her, John angrily pushed him away, accidentally killing him. Afterwards, John and Rose left for America, leaving Jay wracked with guilt.
Jay abandons Silas and proceeds alone, thinking him "a brute". He meets Werner ( Andrew Robertt ), a travelling writer heading east. After Jay falls asleep, Werner steals Jay's horse and equipment, leaving him a raw egg and a piece of paper which points West. Silas tracks down Jay, returning his horse and belongings to him, while assuring Jay that Werner was not harmed. The pair are followed by Payne ( Ben Mendelsohn ), leader of an outlaw gang of which Silas was previously a member. Payne offers the two absinthe in a failed attempt to gather information about Rose and John's whereabouts. Silas warns Jay that if he loves Rose, he should go back home, but Jay is drunk and by the morning remembers nothing of this conversation. He has a dream in which he watches Silas and Rose together with a baby whom Rose calls Jaybird. In the morning, Jay awakens in a flash flood caused by a storm, and Jay and Silas realise that their weapons have been washed away. Continuing on their journey they are followed by Payne's gang. Silas shows the "wanted" poster to Jay and the two go through a forest (which the superstitious gang will not enter) in the hope of not leading the gang to Rose and John. In the forest, they meet a gang of Native Americans, and Jay gets an arrow through his hand which he raises to protect his face. Two Natives gallop away on Jay and Silas' horses, but the clothes line strung up between them catches on a tree, flinging the Natives off and killing them.
Rose and John live in a small house on a prairie, and are brought game by a native Indian called Kotori (Kalani Queypo). Victor the Hawk (Edwin Wright), a bounty hunter disguised as a priest, tracks down the family and kills John with a sniper rifle. After reaching the prairie, Silas ties Jay to a tree. We believe that Silas wants the bounty, but are disabused when he rushes to the house to warn Rose, having tied up Jay to protect him. He is heavily injured by Victor. Moments after, Payne and his men kill Victor and start shooting at the house, while Rose and Kotori shoot back. Jay frees himself by rubbing his bindings against the tree, and rushes inside the house amidst the shootout. He is shot by Rose, who does not realise who he is. After Kotori and most of Payne's gang are dead, Payne heads inside the house, and is shot by Jay. Jay then dies wordlessly as Silas enters the house, telling Rose that Jay loved her with all his heart. We are shown, in silence, each and every dead body from the film.
Afterwards, Silas starts a family with Rose and the children of the dead Swedish couple, similar to the dream that he and Jay had earlier. The film ends with the narrator (Silas) sayin:; "There's more to life than survival. Jay Cavendish told me that. I owe him my life. Ho for the west."