Thomas Bezucha’s Let Him Go

Before I start this review can I just say what a gorgeous, adorable couple Kevin Costner and Diane Lane make? They played one once before in Man Of Steel but the movie wasn’t quite centred on them, however in sweeping American gothic drama-thriller Let Him Go they are front and centre as a husband and wife fighting desperately for what’s theirs in early 1960’s Montana, and they are both every inch the movie stars we’ve come to know and love. This film could have easily gone the direct, glossy genre route and given us something that looked pretty, serviced the audience but didn’t provide much depth beyond surface level. Somewhat newbie director Thomas Bezucha (this is only his third feature in a decade) works from a novel by Larry Watson to give us a rich, stirring, full blooded story of two loving grandparents who refuse to go gentle into that good night, and the film won me over big time. They are George and Margaret Blackledge, loving parents and grandparents until their son passes away in a terrible accident, and his widow marries a no good dirtbag who absconds with her and the grandson with nary a word of farewell. It turns out this brat comes from an entire family of no good dirtbags just like him called the Weboys, presided over by tyrannical matriarchal bitch Blanche Weboy, played by Lesley Manville who sinks her fangs in for the kind of cape twirling, rotten bastard villain turn that would make Imelda Staunton’s Dolores Umbridge cower. She has all of her claws in all of her sons, and soon too the grandson that doesn’t belong to her. So George and Margaret make the journey from Montana into chilly North Dakota to first reason with, then engage in bitter conflict against this maladjusted clan. Costner is gruff, curt and reserved as George but he has always been very skilled at saying a lot without using his words, letting a glance, a shift of weight or gesture speak tomes, and he employs that here to full effect. Lane is the maternal heart, soul and driving force of the film, showing unbreakable determination, resilience and love in the face of belligerent evil. They’re both superb, but what makes the film ultimately so effective is how well they work *together.* There are two scenes that stand out to me as key lynchpins of both their relationship and the narrative: before they leave their ranch to find the grandson, they visit a family grave plot to see their son. Margaret seems upset and says she’d rather not be there because it’s filled with people she’s lost. George says with clenched melancholy “Maybe that’s what life becomes after awhile, just a bunch of people we’ve lost.” This is important in establishing them as individuals and as a couple. Later in North Dakota they get dressed up and go to dinner together, discuss life, death and share a memory in which Margaret whispers words of comfort to her horse who has to be put down. This is a script that means business and doesn’t just exist as framework for thrills, although there are plenty, this is one of the most tense, high stakes, intense stories I’ve seen in awhile. The film has uncommon depth and character development for a film of its type, and what really keeps the wind in the sails is Costner and Lane, their dialogue, romance, determination and love for one another, the grandson they’re fighting so hard to save and the life they’re trying to salvage, together, from the throes of tragedy. I miss when we’d go to the movies to see two honest to god stars like this in a simple, elegant, down to earth but very moving drama. One of the strongest films this year.

-Nate Hill