Slow West is the best modern western I've seen in years. I've watched it twice already and I love it. Some quick thoughts.
The west was a more diverse place than previous generations of Westerns might have you believe, which isn't to suggest that it was a completely diverse time, but it wasn't just all white males. There were different countries present, different accents, different languages, different cultures. All of this is on full display in Slow West.
Slow West is a gorgeously shot movie. You can pause the movie at almost any point and you will find a beautiful shot that conveys information and understands the film language of westerns.
There is a sly humor present that feels naturally funny without altering the tone of the story. And while it may be designed to bring about some small amount of levity, these moments feel very organic.
Slow West works well with it's audience to create a minimalist product. The audience is expected to know that Silas is the good man who has done bad things; that Jay is the innocent babe in the woods, that Payne is the bad guy and will die. The audience recognizes these tropes because they seen them before in countless westerns. And the filmmakers trust that the audience will have that recognition. That frees the movie from having to show back story and exposition, especially for Silas and Payne. Information about history, relationships, and motive is presents in subtle ways.
The ending - Westerns stories come with a high body count. Even the most bloodless of studio system westerns had a high body count. But the deaths are, by and large, disposable. It happens, it's exciting (or serves a story purpose), then the character (and the audience) move on, either to the next story beat, the end of the story, out of the frame. Slow West's final two shots work really well together. First, you see Silas righting the horseshoe and through narration telling us that he's happy and settled. Then the camera goes briefly to every single person who died over the course of the film, wherever they still lay. It's a reminder to the audience: be happy for Silas, Rose, and the children, but that does not come without a price; all of this lead to that. It's more consideration then most westerns muster.