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Let Him Go
Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr Thomas Bezucha
prd Paula Mazur, Mitchell Kaplan, Thomas Bezucha
with Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Lesley Manville, Kayli Carter, Jeffrey Donovan, Booboo Stewart, Will Brittain, Ryan Bruce, Bradley Stryker, Will Hochman, Connor Mackay, Adam Stafford
release US 6.Nov.20,
20/US Focus 1h53
Is it streaming?
There's a mournful tone from the start of this 1960s-set Western, which pits two families against each other in a battle for survival. Filmmaker Thomas Bezucha lets the story unfold with quietly economical storytelling, finding power in wordless moments of observation and steel-eyed emotion. There's a definite Eastwood/Redford tone to this movie, which centres on huge landscapes and unspoken feelings. At least until the plot cranks into gear.
On a rural Montana farm, Margaret and George (Lane and Costner) have a happy life with their son James (Bruce), his wife Lorna (Carter) and their infant son Jimmy. Then James dies in a riding accident, and a few years later Lorna feels compelled to remarry. Her new husband is Donnie (Brittain), who soon reveals himself to be a violent thug. So Margaret becomes determined to get their toddler grandson out of harm's way. This means travelling to North Dakota and taking on Donnie's mob family, led by fearsome matriarch Blanche (Manville).
There's a problem at the centre of the story, as Margaret is only concerned about rescuing Jimmy, not Lorna, from this abusive situation. Her sense of focus is unbending, as is her side-eyed criticism of George's nearly invisible drinking problem. The film's languorous mood and character details pull the audience into the story, creating a terrific sense of Big Sky country (it was filmed in Alberta, Canada). So it feels jarring when everything becomes much more story-driven in the second half, including sentimental touches that feel uncharacteristic.
Lane is terrific as the fiercely determined Margaret, who won't let anything stand in her way. The chemistry is warm and intense between her and the superbly relaxed, no-nonsense Costner. The matter-of-fact way that they deal with their grief is played beautifully. Carter's role is underdeveloped, as is Stewart's, although adds some nice texture as a Native American who crosses their path. Donovan offers brief hints of compassion within Blanche's family. And Manville gives yet another marvellously understated performance that ripples with attitude and menace.
With such an unhurried pace, Bezucha builds a vivid sense of underlying suspense as Margaret and George travel deeper into Blanche's orbit. So when nastiness takes over the narrative, the film loses some of its power. A major showdown later on feels unnecessarily grisly, marking a deliberate pivot into more overt action-thriller territory. But it also offers a chance for repressed feelings to burst to the surface, even if the ensuing full-on grisliness quickly drowns that out. And everything else too.
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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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