Let Him Go (2020)
Let Him Go (2020)

Genre: Drama and Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 53 min.

Release Date: November 6th, 2020 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Thomas Bezucha Actors: Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Lesley Manville, Kayli Carter, Booboo Stewart, Jeffrey Donovan, Will Brittain

 


 

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eorge Blackledge (Kevin Costner) and his wife Margaret (Diane Lane) live on a ranch with their son James (Ryan Bruce) and his wife Lorna (Kayli Carter) and their baby Jimmy. Immediately, it’s evident from Margaret’s brief interactions with Lorna that she disapproves of the young woman’s ability to care for a small child. But the Blackledges are about to have much more staggering worries when James suddenly disappears, only to be found moments later lying dead in the surrounding woods.

Sullenly preparing for what seems to be James’ funeral, the Blackledges instead attend Lorna’s new marriage to Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain) a few years later. It’s certainly a conflicted event, as George and Margaret abjectly drive away from their grandson, despite the fact that the Weboys will only be living a few miles away in town. Yet when Margaret witnesses (unseen, from a distance) Donnie being physically abusive toward Lorna and her three-year-old boy, she’s understandably mortified. And further adding to her dismay is the spontaneous uprooting of Donnie and Lorna, who are reported to have moved hurriedly out of their apartment to his family’s North Dakota home.

This introductory premise is smartly designed and undoubtedly harrowing. The Blackledges are in quite a familial predicament, having no real rights to their grandson, but wholly unable to simply let the child be taken out of their lives; his total absence would be psychologically crushing. It’s a grounded, believable ordeal, and one that audiences will surely find compelling. Plus, Michael Giacchino’s score is supremely complementary, managing dour notes and upbeat melodies at all the right moments – at least in the early sequences.

Some additional, subtle details are quite amusing, too, including George’s former career in law enforcement, his shameful past with alcohol, and a strict upbringing from a religious father. Eventually, however, the situation grows less straightforward, drifting away from dependable drama for the decidedly more theatrical realm of ominous encounters, convenient acquaintances (including Booboo Stewart as the timid, nervous loner Peter Dragswolf), and a nefarious clan of highly suspicious ranchers. With formulaic precision, the once realistic scenario of a tragically disconnected family transforms into a nail-biting thriller, full of faintly frightening, troublingly taunting characters, reminiscent of “Ride the High Country” or ”Breakdown” with a hint of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

It’s something of a series of escalating mind games and standoffs and, finally, showdowns, which pit the devastated older couple against an outnumbering, reviling, violent gang. While the Blackledges’ deadlock occasionally dips back into narrative normalcy, punctuated by emotional revelations and first-rate acting, the film isn’t content with the tensions of messy relationships; it’s just as focused on nerve-wracking rendezvouses, over-the-top characters, and situations spiraling wildly out of control. Lesley Manville’s role as a merciless matriarch would normally be thoroughly entertaining, particularly as she excels in portraying antagonizing personas, but the picture’s setup in reality and then extreme shift into revenge fantasy largely numbs the effectiveness. It’s difficult to appreciate the potency of powerlessness against evil (coupled with the inability to protect loved ones) when that source of conflict is so generically exaggerated. Nevertheless, the bombastic finale is flashy, even if it’s filled with exasperatingly careless horror movie tropes.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10