“Let Him Go”: Effective, but uneven

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Photo courtesy of Focus Features

Though not many new movies have been released in theaters recently, and those few are often not of much quality, one might be relieved to know that good new films are not entirely absent from the big screen. 

Even though most movie theaters are open again, audiences have not returned in any substantial numbers. As a result, most studios have again pushed back the releases of their biggest films (such as “Wonder Woman: 1984,” “No Time To Die” and “Black Widow”) until next spring or summer. The films that have been released in theaters during the pandemic, aside from Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” have been mediocre at best. 

“Let Him Go” stands out among the rest of these studio leftovers and half-baked films due to the outstanding cinematography, two extremely talented leads and a plot that, though unevenly presented at times, will powerfully resonate with most audiences. 

Kevin Costner and Diane Lane star as George and Margaret Blackledge, a husband and wife who lives peacefully on their ranch in the mountains of Montana in 1963 with their son, his wife and their child. 

Their idyllic life on the ranch is suddenly disrupted when George and Margaret’s son, James (Ryan Bruce), falls from his horse one day and dies from his injuries. 

A few years pass, and James’ widow, Lorna (Kayli Carter), has decided to marry a man of questionable character named Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain). After marrying Donnie, Lorna and her son, Jimmy (Bram Hornung), leave Margaret and George’s ranch to live in town with Donnie. 

One day when Margaret is in town, she witnesses Donnie abusing Lorna and Jimmy. By the time she makes up her mind to confront Donnie and ensure that Lorna and Jimmy are safe,  she finds that all three have disappeared. 

Margaret suspects the worst. She and George prepare to travel as far as it takes for them to find Lorna and Jimmy and bring them safely back to the ranch, while still trying to come to terms with the death of their only son.

“Let Him Go” is reminiscent of classic Westerns such as “The Searchers,” but is infused with an intensive, family-oriented interest set in a contemporary age. Like many beloved Westerns, this movie is marked by its dedication to exploring our characters by sending them on a quest to find what matters most. 

“Let Him Go” skillfully takes apart its characters in order to help audiences see what makes the characters’ lives meaningful. 

Costner and Carter do magnificent work as this film’s leads. They possess incredible chemistry together and are the single greatest feature of this film. 

After viewing this film, it is almost impossible to imagine anyone other than Costner and Carter in their roles. They flesh out their characters’ relationship with skill and show how a simple life can lead to an intensive and natural, albeit complex, relationship. Their strong performances allow the film to ask questions and provide some answers about what masculinity, femininity and marriage actually are. 

Cinematographer Guy Godfree also deserves a great deal of praise, as he and his team capture the striking natural beauty of Montana and North Dakota, which alone is worth the price of admission.

This film’s plot is nothing new and its writing is certainly not unique. Nonetheless, the fantastic cinematography and stellar acting increases the impact of its otherwise unremarkable story. 

Aside from its unremarkable story, another defect of this work is the uneven handling of its plot, which is a consequence of both the film’s sequencing, editing and writing. The central antagonists of the film are introduced far too late in the story, and the movie suffers from tonal whiplash in a few spots as a result. 

Despite these defects, the strong performances by Costner and Carter, the timeless relevance of the plot and narrative devices and the expert cinematography elevates what would have otherwise been a mediocre-at-best movie. 

If you’re looking for a new film to check out this weekend and are feeling a little nostalgic about the theater, “Let Him Go” is a solid drama to go see on the big screen. 

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