Set in 1850s Nebraska, this grimly realistic Western stars Hilary Swank and Tommy Lee Jones.

The hardships of frontier life have driven three local women mad, so Swank’s pioneer volunteers to escort the ladies back east to ‘civilisation’ in Iowa, into the care of minister’s wife Meryl Streep, and ropes in Jones’ claim-jumper for the five-week journey.

There are flashes of dark humour, but for the most part this drama is as bleak as the unforgiving terrain the characters cross in a makeshift wooden wagon.

A dark, prickly film that won’t be to all tastes, but which contains depths of compassion and pathos.