The 400-Word Review: Let Him Go
By Sean Collier
November 8, 2020
A movie like “Let Him Go” reminds you why the western is a genre unto itself.
While the western has been endangered for a few decades, it is by no means extinct. Some of that is due to throwbacks and remakes, such as high-profile treatments of “True Grit” and “The Magnificent Seven.” Many neo-westerns, however, have no gunslingers and no sweeping southwestern vistas. Films including “Hell or High Water” and “The Old Man and the Gun” take place out of the time period and without the cowboy trappings. The western is a genre and not simply a style because these tales — defined by lonely desperation, remote settings and explosive confrontations — can occur anytime the story is right.
“Let Him Go” is another such case, set about 100 years after more traditional westerns. Montana couple Margaret (Diane Lane) and George Blackledge (Kevin Costner) are mourning the loss of their adult son, James (Ryan Bruce), who was killed in a horse riding accident. His young wife, Lorna (Kayli Carter), stays with the Blackledges for a few years, raising James’ son.
Lorna eventually remarries, pairing off with Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain), a rough-around-the-edges kid from North Dakota. Margaret is upset at seeing her daughter-in-law and grandson leave the home, and her concern only grows: First, she catches Donnie smacking Lorna and the boy on the street. Then, the whole family vanishes, having reportedly decamped for the remote Weboy homestead.
Margaret can’t take another loss; George knows it’ll end badly, but accepts that he can’t stop her. So the aging couple loads up the car (including an immaculately prepared cake and a concealed weapon) and searches for their grandson.
The path will lead to a collision with Weboy matriarch Blanche (Lesley Manville), who gives the film’s most remarkable performance. Acting praise is not due her alone. Costner and Lane both take to these roles with aplomb, demonstrating both their ample adjacent film experience and plenty of lingering fire in their storied careers.
Their stage is a gorgeously photographed picture, as cinematographer Guy Godfree paints lush backdrops whether he’s working with a remarkable landscape or the shadowy corners of the Weboy house. Most remarkable is the vision of writer/director Thomas Bezucha. While he is working from a novel by Larry Watson, the bittersweet tone of “Let Him Go” bears Bezucha’s fingerprints; it’s a film with a broken, yet still beating, heart.
My Rating: 8/10
“Let Him Go” is playing in theaters. Please consider patronizing a drive-in cinema to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 spread.