Saturday 11 December 2021

Movie Review: Let Him Go (2020)

A rural drama with tense moments of violence, Let Him Go is a story of long-lasting love accommodating obstinacy.

It's the early 1960s in rural Montana. Margaret and George Blackledge (Diane Lane and Kevin Costner) have been married for a long time, and run a ranch together. She is an expert at breaking horses, and George is a retired lawman. Their son James and his wife Lorna (Kayli Carter) have a young son Jimmy. The strong-willed Margaret is overbearing towards Lorna but dotes over her grandson.

An accident claims the life of James, and Lorna quickly remarries Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain). Margaret witnesses Donnie mistreating his new wife and step-son, and is then heartbroken when Donnie, Lorna and Jimmy suddenly leave town without a goodbye. She senses Jimmy is in danger and convinces a reluctant George to join her on a road trip to North Dakota, where Donnie's family comes from, to rescue the child. As they get closer to Gladstone, Margaret and George learn the Weboy family has a fearsome reputation, and reclaiming Jimmy will not be easy.

Written and directed by Thomas Bezucha, Let Him Go has plenty to enjoy, starting with the cast. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane settle into a spiritual level of marital comfort with professional ease, the two veterans forging the genuine dynamic of a couple together for a long time and keenly aware of the union's strengths and weaknesses. They are complemented by gorgeous cinematography courtesy of Guy Godfree, measured and character-defined pacing, and a sense of impending doom as Margaret and George get closer to the isolated Weboy homestead.

The narrative is propelled by the spectre of death and loss as a normalized part of Margaret's uncompromising determination to do what she believes is right, and in the way she believes is right. And so the same grandma-bear attitude that alienated Lorna comes to the fore in an increasingly dangerous mission into the soul of darkness to rescue her grandson. Margaret's true inner strength is mostly revealed through George's mirror as a husband filled with admiration for his wife's feistiness but also keenly aware of the trouble she can bring upon them.

Let Him Go starts to run into trouble once the extended Weboy family is introduced. Here Bezucha veers towards gargoylian representations of an evil redneck clan more befitting a slasher horror flick. With Lesley Manville holding court as the queen hornet, brutality is unleashed, rubbing awkwardly against the pre-established mood of dramatic lyricism.

Better intentions reside within the character of Peter Dragswolf (Booboo Stewart), an Indigenous man the Blackledges meet and befriend on the road to North Dakota. Peter has a personal story of loss, solitude, and a self-defined fresh start, reflecting some of what Margaret is experiencing. He deserved a larger share of the 114 minutes of running time.

Despite some unbalanced ambitions, Let Him Go reveals the deep roots of courage, conviction, and compromise nurturing a sturdy human bond.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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