Let Him Go: Movie Review
A simple story often makes for the best story
4 out of 5
Based on the novel by Larry Watson, Let Him Go, hit theaters this week. Starved for something new to watch — I was so excited to see this film. Starring a couple of true stars of the big screen in Diane Lane and Kevin Costner, Let Him Go looked like a movie that would be filled with good guys kicking bad guys’ butts. What actually came across the screen however, was different. Some bad guys got their butts kicked alright— but it didn’t quite go like I thought it would. Granted, I have not read the book — so my expectations were based primarily on the movie’s trailer.
What I imagined would unfold was Costner’s character wreaking havoc on anyone who crossed his path in his quest to find his grandson, who essentially was taken from him and his wife by a greedy, narcissistic family. Instead, the film is a slow boil, which crescendos in the movie’s final moments, leaving you breathless, sad, and satisfied.
The film starts with Costner (George Blackledge) and Lane (Margaret Blackledge) at their homestead somewhere in the West, with their son James, daughter-in-law Lorna, and grandson Jimmy. For the most part, things seem to be quite pleasant as they work the land and horses. Tragedy strikes however, when James is killed after being thrown from his horse. After his death, there is a small time jump, where the viewer sees Lorna re-marrying, with George, Margaret, and Jimmy, by her side, to a man named Donnie Weboy (pronounced Wee-boy). While the moment is understandably not the happiest for the Blackledges, there seems to be a pall over the wedding, warning that happy days are not exactly on the horizon.
After the wedding, Lorna moves out of the Blackledge’s home and into a small apartment with Donnie and her son. The tension is stronger here, as it’s clear that George and Donnie aren’t exactly friendly, and Margaret is desperate to stay connected to her grandson, in spite of some friction with Lorna. Things grow even darker though, when George and Margaret discover that Donnie and Lorna have left with Jimmy, without telling anyone why, or where they were going (all of this coming after Margaret witnessed Donnie hitting Lorna and Jimmy). This leads George and Margaret to go after their grandson, as George utilizes connections he has from his days as a sheriff to find out where they’ve gone.
Along the way, the Blackledges are warned on a couple of occasions that the Weboy family is dangerous and not to be trifled with. George attempts several times to tell Margaret they have little in the way of leverage for getting the boy back, and warns that things could end poorly. Margaret is undeterred, and pursues her mission — making it clear that she will do so with or without George. Once the Weboys enter the picture, it’s clear why people tried to warn the Blackledges, and the complexity of getting Jimmy and even Lorna back becomes crystal clear.
As I mentioned, the way the trailer played out — I thought we might be in for a film similar to Man on Fire, with Denzel Washington (one of my favorite films of all time), where we witness the hero forcefully making anyone who got in his way pay dearly. What plays out instead, is a more realistic portrayal of how such a situation would unfold. Costner’s character is not some unbelievable fighter, who can humiliate and destroy anyone who gets in his way. In fact, he’s exactly what we learn about him. A retired sheriff, who has grown comfortable in his life, which doesn’t include a lot of confrontation. It is his wife’s drive and insistence at continuing, along with his love and loyalty to her that keeps him moving forward. He puts her wants and desires first — even if it ends up costing him.
While the movie does take a little while to build, and often leaves you wanting to reach through the screen so you can personally slap the Weboys around, the payoff is worth it. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane have fantastic chemistry, as they did in their brief time on screen as husband and wife in Man of Steel. With the movie being set in what appears to be the 50’s, the way the film plays out and how the Weboys are able to get away with all that they do — makes sense. Nowadays, things would bog down quickly with lawyers, court appointments, and legalities that would be mind numbing. The film is beautifully shot, and all of the supporting roles are perfectly cast — especially the matriarch of the Weboys, Blanche Weboy, played by Lesley Manville. Truthfully, within 15 seconds of her appearance on screen — you will hate her (as you’re supposed to).
Originally slated for release back in August, but delayed by Covid-19, Let Him Go is a divergence from CGI laden action films. The strength of the movie is in its story, acting performances, directing, and cinematography. I really enjoyed it — though if it had ended up being a rock ’em, sock ’em rampage from Kevin Costner delivering justice to the jerks who took his grandson — I would have been okay with that as well.
Let Him Go is now playing and is rated R for violence.