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On this page: LOST CHILD | THE RIDER
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last update 11.Sep.18
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Lost Child
dir Ramaa Mosley
scr Tim Macy, Ramaa Mosley
prd Gina Resnick, Ramaa Mosley, Cameron Gray, Tim Macy, Sarah Johnson
with Leven Rambin, Jim Parrack, Landon Edwards, Taylor John Smith, Toni Johnson, Kip Collins, Mark Ingalsbe, Brett Osbourne, Nicole Parnell, Debbie Sutcliffe, Bob Johnson, Mike Wade
release US 14.Sep.18
18/US 1h36
Lost Child There's a no-nonsense tone to this drama that echoes the culture in which the story is set, the rural American South. It's a slow-burning but heady a mix of boozy frustration, post-traumatic stress and ancient voodoo. Filmmaker Ramaa Mosley layers intrigue and suggestion, finding depth in the characters as the story drifts very close to the freak-out horror genre.

When Fern (Rambin) returns to the Ozarks after her army service, no one seems to know the whereabouts of her brother Billy (Smith), an addict and troublemaker. Moving into her isolated family house, she gets help from Florine (Johnson) and quickly hooks up with barman Mike (Parrack). Then she finds the young boy Cecil (Edwards) living in the woods and sets out to learn who he belongs to. He's a gentle, perceptive kid, but the locals are superstitious, and Fern starts to wonder herself when her hair begins going grey.

Realism and fantastical horror mingle right through the story. "Drugs sure have a way of hollowing people out," the doctor (Ingalsbe) says sympathetically, referencing Fern's late parents. He also utters the word "tatterdemalion", which refers to folklore about a boy banished to the trees who drains life from the living. Indeed, Cecil claims that he has no family and refuses to say how old he is. But he develops a connection with Fern that she can't deny. And where the story goes is both pointed and clever, including a final twist on a tired cliche.

Rambin is magnetic as a woman weighed down by emotional baggage from her military service, then facing these creepy old-time traditions. She hears but struggles to heed warnings about this boy. Meanwhile, Edwards has remarkable presence as this enigmatic boy who has perhaps seen even more atrocities than Fern has. Each offbeat character feels authentic; indeed many side roles were cast locally. They're all so realistic that their connections and conflicts resonate strongly.

Several plot threads are powerfully involving, from Fern's attempts to reconnect with her angry brother to her budding relationship with Mike. She's haunted by her past, which makes her unsure about pretty much everything she encounters. And since the story is told so skilfully through Fern's eyes, this is how the audience feels too: increasingly out of balance, wondering if there's any truth in these crazy-sounding legends. And the way Mosley astutely weaves in comments about America's societal issues is perhaps the most chilling thing of all.

15 themes, language, violence

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The Rider
dir-scr Chloe Zhao
prd Chloe Zhao, Bert Hamelinck, Sacha Ben Harroche, Mollye Asher
with Brady Jandreau, Tim Jandreau, Lilly Jandreau, Lane Scott, Cat Clifford, Tanner Langdeau, James Calhoon, Terri Dawn Jandreau, Allen Reddy, Derrick Janis, Leroy Pourier, Todd O'Brian
jandreau with apollo release US 13.Apr.18,
UK 14.Sep.18
17/US 1h44

london film fest
The Rider An intimate character study, this loosely fictionalised story of a South Dakota rodeo rider is so soulful that it almost hurts to watch it. But it's beautifully directed by Chloe Zhao with sharp filmmaking skill and extraordinary emotional insight, quietly capturing the story's details to layer resonant themes under the documentary-like setting. It's powerfully gripping, and almost overwhelmingly moving.

Recovering from a skull injury, 20-year-old rodeo champ Brady (Jandreau) knows he will never compete again. He relates better to horses than people, including his father and little sister (Jandreau's real family Tim and Lilly). His roughhousing friends act as if nothing has changed. But without a high school diploma, his options are limited. Then a local rancher (Reddy) asks for his expert help with a colt no one has been able to break. Indeed, Brady doesn't quite seem whole unless he's on a horse, but he's been warned that another fall could be fatal.

Brady's life feels at a crossroads for more reasons than his injury: his daredevil best buddy (Scott) was severely disabled in a rodeo accident, and his father has sold his favourite horse Gus. The film is photographed with a magnificent mix of dust and colour by Joshua James Richards. Because it's populated by real people, the characters all have unusual scars, from the scary gash in Brady's head to his one-handed colleague Frank (Pourier). And Lilly's singular form of autism also adds to the authenticity.

Landreau has great on-screen presence, creating a complex portrait of this thoughtful, determined young man. His feelings subtly flicker across his face, making him a compelling protagonist. Uneducated but fiercely intelligent, Brady is a haunting character, riveting and sympathetic on an almost elemental level. It's a devastatingly strong performance. The scenes of him patiently working with wild horses are simply gorgeous. And his tenacity in pursuing his dream to buy a new horse is both hopeful as well as darkly worrying.

This film is packed with heart-stopping moments, both big-sky scenes and tiny touches like a horse looking back over its shoulder as Brady walks away. But the most powerful aspect of the film is the way Brady's entire self-image is caught up in his skill as a horseman. And because of the jolly machismo all around him, Brady is struggling internally to face a truth no one around him seems willing to acknowledge. So seeing these thoughts quietly revealed in his eyes is genuinely heartbreaking.

15 themes, language, violence

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