A haunting tale of desperation and regret, Let Him Go packs a punch.
We’re in rural Montana in the early 1960s. George Blackledge (Kevin Costner) is a former lawman, but when it comes to “my way or the highway”. His wife Margaret (Diane Lane ) rules the roost. Once she gets an idea in her head, she won’t be swayed. A tragedy befell their young married son James (Ryan Bruce), who left behind not only his wife, Lorna (Kayli Carter), but a baby, Jimmy. Now Kayli has married Donnie (Will Brittain) a cruel man from a notorious family, the Weboys.
Without so much as a word to Margaret and George, Kayli, Donnie and their now three-year-old move from Montana to North Dakota. But before they disappeared, Margaret witnessed something nasty, which made her fear for her grandson, whom she is desperate to see … and his mother. Now she is determined to find out exactly where Kayli, Donnie and Jimmy are. She plans to rescue the youngster and bring him home to live with George and her. But what she doesn’t count on is the brutality of Donnie’s family, led by matriarch Blanche (Lesley Manville), who doesn’t take a backward step.
Writer and director Thomas Bezucha has done a fine job adapting Larry Watson’s 2013 novel. The plot unfolds slowly at first, but picks up momentum as the Blackledges try to track down their grandson. A feeling of impending doom underwrites the piece. A showdown is inevitable, but I defy anyone to pick how it plays out.
Lane, Costner and Manville act up a storm in a series of powerful performances that drive the story. I couldn’t take my eyes off them. The fine cinematography by Guy Godfree does justice to the vast open country that is so significant it is like another character in the story. The narrative arc is assisted by a lucid score from Michael Giacchino (Jojo Rabbit).
To those who might find the start hard going, I say stick with it for patience is rewarded. With a title that resonates, Let Him Go is assured, compelling filmmaking.
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Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.