“I know I don’t know everything. But I know as much as I can handle, and I’d like to leave it at that”Review by Willow Taylor
After having a couple days to let the impact of this cinematic masterpiece mellow, I’ve come to the conclusion that I absolutely loved it.
The film opens at a desert bus stop, AKA the middle of nowhere, where a man escaping his “troubled past” is found to be conversing with an elderly parson. The man reveals that he is desperate for a fresh start following the death of his wife, however, this ‘fresh start’ is not quite as peaceful as he had hoped, as we later find out. The existentialist parson eventually gifts the man with his clothes and bible, and with an ‘Adios Amigo’, trapes into the desert heat, leaving the man to take on the admirable identity of ‘Parson Henry’ and escape to his new life in the west.
We are next introduced to arguably the most intriguing character in the film, Samuel Alabaster (portrayed by Robert Pattinson), who’s accompanied by Butterscotch the miniature horse- the first of many playful insight into the quirks of the film, somewhat comparable to that of Wes Anderson. After Samuel has located the drunken ‘Parson Henry’ and enlisted his help in finding his kidnapped fiancé, Penelope, the unlikely duo set off with Butterscotch in tow in an attempt to track down his wife-to-be. However, as later revealed, the truth is far from what the deluded Samuel believes, meaning the imposter Parson is left bewildered as to what to do next.
As I’m hoping you can tell from the review so far, I was engrossed in the film from scene 1. Maybe it was the shear peculiarity of it or the miniature horse I’ll never know, but what I can tell you is I was not disappointed. Firstly, I find it hard to believe that anyone could review this film without mentioning the outstanding soundtrack. The Octopus Project did an excellent job in creating the soundtrack and each piece was perfectly matched to each scene, creating the desired affect on the audience I’m sure. My favourite being ‘Parting Ways’ which can be found at the end of the film. Without giving too much away, I think this piece perfectly mirrors the feelings of the remaining protagonists- loneliness and uncertainty of what comes next. Furthermore, it illustrates how, despite the dramatic journey prior, they haven’t changed, Penelope is just as stone-cold and badass as before, as she is witnessed rowing out to sea with nothing but a miniature horse, and the Parson is just as lonely in his hunt for love, as he is seen returning to the bar for a drink.
However, there were some inconsistencies that did affect my thoughts on the film. One of these was the character Rufus Cornell, who largely had me puzzled by not only his demeanour and actions, but in the simple fact the somehow, he survived after falling off a ‘cliff’. Although the main discrepancy being that we never truly find out Samuel and Penelope’s past, which, if included, would have definitely helped clear up some questions. For example, why did Samuel think they were engaged? Why was Penelope with Anton Cornell? Etc. On the other hand, the lack of backstory did add to the mystery of the film and the confusion the audience felt was mirrored in the Parson, as he was never told what actually happened either. Furthermore, perhaps the Zellner brothers wanted the viewer to piece together their past from hints of what Samuel and Penelope said, but of course I’m only assuming.
Despite this, I still thoroughly enjoyed the film, not only in the creative aspects, but I found the story genuinely gripping. As well as the tremendous performance by Robert Pattinson (Samuel) and Mia Wasikowska (Penelope) but I think that possibly the most convincing performance was in fact by one of the directors, David Zellner, who played Parson Henry. Zellner succeeded in creating a lonely hopless-romantic in which the viewer can only take pity on.
All in all, I would class Damsel as one of my all time favourite films and, coming from someone that doesn’t usually enjoy Westerns, it’s a film anyone can appreciate. The peculiar creative aspects, sharp comedy, remarkable cast, and extremely well-suited soundtrack make it a highly enjoyable film that I can assure you I will be watching again.