After releasing an impressive slew of films in 2017, A24 are kicking off what looks like a promising 2018 with a big presence at this year's Glasgow Film Festival. And the first showing here: their forthcoming Western The Ballad of Lefty Brown.


Having contently remained in the sidelines up until now, the somewhat-naive, bumbling Lefty Brown (Pullman) is forced out of the shadows when his partner, Edward Johnson (Peter Fonda), is brutally murdered. However, when Brown is framed for this murder, he sets out determined to catch the killers and avenge his long-time partner, and best friend, Johnson's death. And it's quite the journey; largely thanks to the character of Lefty Brown - the beating heart of this film.

Brown is the sliver of decency in this corrupt, marred world; he's almost childlike in his naive, rambling nature. Pullman is terrific in the role. He plays it tough on the outside and gentle on the inside, getting the balance just right to create a character that is endearing yet one that is resilient and determined, unwilling to give up. This imbues Brown with an ineffable warmth, one that makes his an easy character to get behind and root for. We care for his story. Sadly, though, it's merely his journey we care for; the rest of the supporting players - despite brought to life with good performances - all feel too thin and unforgettable to really add anything to Ballad. They're thin and bland - it's frankly just your typical cohort of supporting Western character archetypes. Tommy Flanagan and Diego Josef give great performances as the nihilistic sheriff and the young gun-boy, respectively, but they're merely there for adding to Brown's journey -usually forgivable given that he is our eyes into this story, but you can't help but feel underwhelmed by their mawkish writing.

Director Jared Moshe, following his 20120 debut Dead Man's Burden, does a terrific job at fully realising this world and 1889 setting - thanks to some luscious costume and production design, grounding it in authenticity, and embellished by David McFarland's gorgeous cinematography - so crisp and stunning and in glorious, textured 35mm too (it's so rich that it's almost as if we can smell the gunpowder and taste the bitter dust). It's a slickly told story, one that is simple enough in its nature. It's a slow-burner, however, and the film can suffer from too plodding a narrative at times; yes, it's a cohesively executed narrative, but one that struggles to fill out the 115-minute runtime in as taut a manner as a 90/100-minute runtime could have done. Nonetheless, The Ballad of Lefty Brown is yet another worthy addition to A24's impressive show of films. Bill Pullman's career-best work as the endearing Lefty Brown is the sole reason that this film works as much as it does. It's a slickly made film, yes, but Brown is the beating heart of it all that gives it life.

Acting primarily as a vehicle for Bill Pullman's career-best performance, The Ballad of Lefty Brown is a solid and enjoyable enough Western, albeit one that is nothing special.

Tagged as

About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

Related Posts