let him go
director: Thomas Bezucha (monte carlo, the family stone)
starring: kevin costner, diane lane, lesley manville and booboo stewart
REVIEWER: lyall carter
Following the loss of their son, a retired sheriff and his wife leave their Montana ranch to rescue their young grandson from the clutches of a dangerous family living off the grid in the Dakotas.
Who would have thought that one of 2020’s best films would be a slow burning, Western thriller starring two middle aged Hollywood stars? Not only is Let Him Go one of the most tense thrillers in recent memory, its exploration of family, grief, loss and abuse is one of the most honest to have graced the silver screen in a long time.
In 1963 Montana retired sheriff George Blackledge and his wife Margaret live with their son, James, his wife, Lorna, and their newborn grandson, Jimmy. James is killed when he is thrown from a horse, breaking his neck.
Three years later, Lorna marries Donnie Weboy, though it is made obvious during the dour nuptials that the wedding is one of necessity. While out one day, Margaret happens to observe Donnie physically abusing both his wife and now 3-year-old Jimmy. Margaret decides to check in with Lorna and Jimmy at their new home. Shortly afterwards, Donnie leaves town with Lorna and Jimmy, causing Margaret to worry over Jimmy’s safety. She eventually convinces George that the situation is dire enough to intervene, and the two set off to find the family. What they discover will challenge them to their core.
I find it an interesting phenomenon that we can sit and binge a streaming TV series for hours on end yet we have little patience for a movie that slowly builds tension over an hour or so. For some, Let Him Go will be too slow. But it’s the pace in the first two acts that not only allows the characters room to breathe and grow but the narrative to as well. It is measured, deliberate and artful.
As the characters are being fleshed out there is still a lot of intrigue and little pieces of tension that plays out in the first couple of acts. It also allows time to see the grief that George and Margaret live with play out in the day to day of their lives as well as the insidious nature of abuse.
As the story enters its third act the tension is thick enough to cut with a knife. Every single and slight move our protagonists make, the audience is collectively holding their breath. Its the first time in a long time that I was gripping hard to the arm rest during a movie.
Costner and Lane are phenomenal here. They never overplay their hand resorting to over the top dramatic performances, but instead they both give nuanced performances that are simmering with heartbreaking grief, thundering anger and a thirst for justice.
Not only is Let Him Go one of the most tense thrillers in recent memory, its exploration of family, grief, loss and abuse is one of the most honest to have graced the silver screen in a long time.