I have always been a great believer in the theory that great cinema does not always have to leave the audience feeling comfortable after watching it.
Think of movies like Silence Of The Lambs or Schindler’s List – both masterpieces but they are hardly films that will leave you with a warm, fluffy feeling after watching them. Now, joining that list is the brand-new thriller from director Thomas Bezucha (Monte Carlo) – Let Him Go.
Set in the early 1960s in the American mid-west, Let Him Go follows the story of retired lawman George Blackledge (Kevin Costner) and his rancher wife Margaret (Diane Lane). As they both slow down, they expect that they will live out their days with their son running the ranch and Margaret enjoying being able to bring up her grandson with her daughter-in-law, Lorna (Kayli Carter).
That plan ends though when George and Margaret’s son is killed in a tragic accident. Three years later Lorna marries Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain) and then the pair disappears without warning. Having already witnessed Donnie’s violet behaviour towards Lorna and her son, Margaret becomes so worried she decides to head to North Dakota and try to find the pair – that plan though soon sees George and Margaret have to confront the ferocious Weboy family led by its matriarch Blanche Weboy (Lesley Manville).
I found the film’s opening delightfully deceitful. Long, panning shots of a mid-Western ranch being run by a father and son was somehow almost Hallmark like and it gave absolutely no hint of the brutality and suspense that soon follows. The moment that Donnie hits Lorna, the film changes in the same way that indiscretion changes the lives of George and Margaret forever. What struck me the most about that moment is the fact that Thomas Bezucha does such an amazing job making the scene feel completely natural. No over-powering soundtrack crescendos nor Dolby enhanced sound effects to highlight the moment; just the sheer shock of the action and the brilliant facial expressions from Diane Lane says it all.
Now I would love to be sitting here right now and telling you that Let Him Go is a brilliant masterpiece and film of the year, but there is one thing stopping me from doing so – one scene in fact. I won’t spoil the film for anyone but as this film smoothly glides along wrapping its audience up in its suspense and occasional depravity, one scene about three-quarters of the way into the film took me away from it all by sign-posting exactly how the film was going to end.
Up until that moment, Bezucha played his cards close to his chest and it worked. Until that point, I felt like I was in the car alongside George and Margaret as they searched for Lorna. I even felt the uncomfortableness as they both sat facing Blanche, the most fearsome woman to grace the cinema screen since Smurf Cody in Animal Kingdom, while she sat in her kitchen. The experience was so intense and immersive, I could practically smell the pork chops as she served them. But once the ‘sign posting’ scene occurred, I found that some of the suspense had just evaporated from the film. Sure, I still wanted to see what happened to Lorna and her son but having a strong feeling about what was going to happen to one character did distract a lot from what was happening overall.
Don’t let that scene stop you from going to see Let Him Go. There is a still a sheer brilliance to this film. The film conjures up images of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and the amazingly under-rated Hell Or High Water as it mixes the Western and Thriller genres together in the hands of Thomas Bezucha who has delivered his best film to date. Then of course, there are the amazing performances of Lane, Costner and Manville who are all in award-winning form.
One little scene may stop Let Him Go from being a brilliant film, however, this is still a great film that is one of the best of 2020.