Kevin Costner and Diane Lane headline as George and Margaret Blackledge in a high-quality Western with a stellar cast in the adapted drama Let Him Go. Family matters are the challenge as this husband-wife duo as they travel from their Montana home to North Dakota to contend with the ruthless Weboy family.
Directed, produced, and written by Thomas Bezucha, based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Larry Watson, Let Him Go is set in 1963 (the novel was in 1951) and displays such strong character that audiences will likely wish for prequel(s).
No frivolous character action here. Each character’s decision progresses the plot as Bezucha adapts the original material extremely well as the screenwriter then transfers that plot to the screen so well as the director.
George and Margaret’s honesty and integrity impress in realistic portrayals that create natural emotions. They cover everything from alcohol to overall dispositions in wondrous ways while keeping the film’s tone and progression in perfect sync.
Costner and Lane’s performances anchor the film while the antagonistic Weboys and supporting characters also feature powerful portrayals.
British actress Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread) definitely makes an impression as the Weboy matriarch Blanche. Jeffrey Donovan (Honest Thief, Burn Notice series) matches her vindictiveness as her son Bill while Will Brittain portrays Donnie Weboy.
Kayli Carter (Bad Education, Mrs. America mini-series) portrays daughter-in-law Lorna Blackledge, a key role who activates a key change in the Blackledge family pendulum in her decision to wed Donnie after being widowed from James Blackledge. Her understated role is so vital and Carter impresses with quiet intelligence.
Native American Loner Peter Dragswolf is portrayed by Booboo Stewart, who is a familiar face (X-Men: Days of Future Past, Twilight films) that’s getting a well-deserved showcase as a kind, but guarded young man living in North Dakota nearby the Weboy family. His portrayal is strong enough that filmmakers prefer his emotional dialogue delivery instead of using flashback visuals.
Former fashion executive Bezucha definitely has a great eye as the director in his fourth feature film and lets the story tell itself at an appealing, steady pace that doesn’t unnecessarily jolt or manipulate the audience.
His smooth camera motions and impressive framing fit the Western genre well. Impressive closure and effective use of flashbacks for the core Blackledge family history create a layered experience that audiences won’t forget.
The plot could have added an interesting wrinkle with a mysterious “little birdy” information contact (considered that Peter might be a paid “snitch” for the Weboy family) that turns out just to be general gossip/community news that’s not seen, just conveyed through character dialogue.
Michael Giacchino (The Incredibles, Up) elevates this impressive film even more with his pitch-perfect musical score. Canadian cinematographer Guy Godfree does the Western genre proud while editors Jeffrey Ford and Meg Reticker keep a steady focus on the engaging narrative.
Focus Features’ Let Him Go comes highly recommended (***1/2 out of four stars) and is rated R for violence. Costner also serves as executive producer and has made huge contributions and productions towards the Western film genre in modern times. Go see this memorable one-hour and 54-minute treasure.