Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Rider

THE RIDER (****)

I found THE RIDER to be genuine and sincere in ways that are for films these days. It is aided by some fantastic acting (Brady Jandreau's face says so much!) that feels so natural you'd swear you were watching a documentary (the family in the film is portrayed by a real family: Brady, Wayne, and Lilly Blackburn) and some gorgeous cinematography by Joshua James Richards that beautifully captures the wide open spaces of South Dakota. It's not too talky (which would have robbed a lot of the film of its power) and doesn't have conflicts in the traditional sense, but it's such a confident film in how it shows its protagonist Brady coming to terms with his life (as he sees it) stopping before it ever really got started.

There's a real sense of confidence and beauty and care in every aspect of the filmmaking here. It's one of those movies that provides a glimpse into a world that I know nothing about, and I was happy to visit this small reservation ranch in South Dakota and to be around these characters. It has a tremendous sense of place, and I appreciated that the director (Chloe Zhao) didn't feel the need to overstate things. Whether it's in letting a beautiful shot speak for itself, the power in a whistle in one of the film's final moments (that one got to me), or the subtle, understated way she let's us know that Brady--a rodeo pro that suffered a tremendous head injury after being bucked and is advised by doctors to never ride again--is coming to terms with his post-rodeo life (there are no melodramatic moments of exposition where characters yell and cry about dreams not achieved, etc.).

There is also a montage of Brady training a horse, trying to tame it. To describe it here in detail would not do the scene justice (it would sound boring), but it is one of the most intense (I had anxiety every time Brady was around/on a horse) and fascinating scenes of the movie. I watched in awe at Brady's process (this is where it feels like a documentary), at watching a professional do their thing and do it well.

I loved it.


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