Let Him Go
Performance-driven and quiet, Thomas Bezucha's Let Him Go is a slow burn Western by location, but really just a drama about identity, never letting go and the strength of family. The action is minimal and mostly stuffed into the final 15 minutes, but I didn’t mind the buildup.
Thomas Bezucha‘s latest film, Let Him Go, is that rare adult-geared drama that usually lands on streaming platforms, yet has somehow managed to make it to the big screen. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane share the screen with magnificent chemistry, while the film itself unfolds in a somewhat predictable and slow fashion, but never forgetting to soak up the desolate North Dakota setting. Let Him Go is very much a slow-burn Western set against the Great Plains in the 60s, which alone makes it a unique viewing experience, even if the film requires your patience.
George (Kevin Costner) and Margaret (Diane Lane) Blackledge are two loving grandparents enjoying the easy life of retirement. They have a loving grandson, with a somewhat rocky relationship with his mother after their own son passed away due to a tragic accident.
Now, they do their best to remain in their grandson’s life, even if that means watching their former daughter-in-law remarry into a new family.
Things start off mostly fine, with a distance created between the Blackedge’s and their former daughter-in-law and her new husband, but then they start to notice signs of abuse, followed by the disappearance of the three.
When they start poking around, they learn that their former daughter-in-law’s new husband has family out in North Dakota and that they suddenly up and left to reunite him with his mother and relatives without so much as a goodbye phone call.
This is where things come to a boil, as George and Margaret must journey into the unknown to find their grandson, with Margaret wanting to take him and bring him back home, while George thinks a simple wellness check might suffice.
Thomas Bezucha‘s Let Him Go represents an almost forgotten type of film, one that feels like it was modestly-budgeted and one that relies heavily on its two lead performers more than anything else. Yes, there’s a bit of mystery surrounding the story and yes, there’s a little action sprinkled in during the film’s climax, but most of Let Him Go rests on Costner and Lane’s shoulders as we explore their own relationship with each other and how the death of their son weighs heavily on both, yet the new life of their grandson gives them and hope and purpose.
It’s a messy family drama that’s seeded in reality, never short-changing interaction and communication for flashy action or a heightened reveal of a simple plot point — Let Him Go is very much grounded in the real world and I fear that most will quickly dismiss this as a pedestrian drama that’s meant for cable.
And I partially don’t blame audiences for leaving this film and expecting more. This is a “meat and potatoes” drama anchored on reliable performances and a visually competent director.
But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t more to explore and take away from this film.
Let Him Go is beautifully shot, capturing the Great Plains of the 60s with Western aesthetics that hang on lighting, sprawled landscapes and drifting characters that serve important purpose to the plot’s advancement. There’s also the use of flashbacks to convey current emotion, revealing that Costner’s “hard as nails” former officer of the law character still has a soft side that’s full of guilt and remorse, while Lane’s Margaret was once a loving and tender mother turned hard and hopeless by death and distance.
Much of Let Him Go is about identity. Who you were impacts who you are now. Sometimes, the hardest thing to face is what looks at you in the mirror every morning and both Lane and Costner’s characters come to terms with this fact in their own ways. But Let Him Go is also about never letting go and the strength of family as we watch both Margaret and George come to terms with the death of their son, their now rocky relationship with their former daughter-in-law and their undying love for their grandson, despite all of this.
There’s a lot of desperation on display and that leads to irrational behavior and quick decisions, which again, is something I’d fully expect to happen in real life.
Fans of of writer/director Taylor Sheridan will surely find interest in Thomas Bezucha‘s Let Him Go, even if it doesn’t feel quite as polished or as thematically engaging. Where Sheridan manages to bring it home and make for an escalating drama in each of his films, Bezucha sort of sits back and lets things simmer.
This isn’t a discredit or a knock on his directing or writing abilities, but just an observation of the vast differences between the two filmmakers, despite a similar vibe that is given off from both.
I walked out of Let Him Go thinking that the film was just alright, despite holding my attention visually in a much stronger manner. But the more I thought about it, the more I discovered how much of the film resonated with me and how much I appreciated the fact that Bezucha’s film is so calm and quiet, blending in where others might choose to stick out, which might feel like a shortsighted disadvantage, but actually pays off as it makes the film distinctively different.
I fear most won’t find that same appreciation and instead think of this as a time-waster that needs to just get to the point and I can certainly see that point of view, even if I don’t exactly agree with it. For me, Let Him Go represents that sort of peeled-back Western that isn’t afraid to let its characters stew and the backdrop of any particular scene come to the forefront.
Kevin Costner and Diane Lane give two worthy performances that only add to the fact that they have fantastic chemistry. I see this is an unofficial sequel to Man of Steel in terms of their relationship as a mother and father, because that film only scratched at the surface and now this film dives in head-first — please continue to make films together, because you are the perfect on-screen couple!
Let Him Go opens theatrically and is worth the price of admission if you feel safe venturing out to the local cinema. It’s that rare performance-driven Western that we use to only see pop up for one-week engagements at the local arthouse, yet now with the pandemic in full-swing, we are able to see such a character-driven on a widespread scale.
Yes, COVID sucks, but those looking to seek a bit of cinematic joy will be pleased to know that this one is very much worth a viewing.