‘Old Henry’ Film Review: Tim Blake Nelson Is a Reluctant Hero in Intimate Western Gem

The Western is a film genre that has exerted an irresistible pull over the decades to filmmakers interested in action and adventure. But it’s also uniquely suited to deliver an elegy or a lament for days gone by, which is something Westerns have done indelibly from the final image of John Ford’s “The Searchers” to more recent films like Clint Eastwood’s monumental “Unforgiven” and Andrew Dominik’s luminous “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.” There’s a reason why when Peter Bogdanovich wanted to capture the end of an era in “The Last Picture Show,” he used the final cattle drive in “Red River” — decades after their prime, Westerns can still have that impact.

Evoking days gone by, lone heroes and lives that could be snuffed out at any minute, Westerns by now carry an air of sadness to go along with their inevitable rip-roaring gunplay. Director Potsy Ponciroli knows that and uses it to marvelous effect in “Old Henry,” an elegiac indie Western that premiered at the Venice Film Festival on Tuesday.