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Let Him Go


As a suspenseful family drama, LET HIM GO is a slow burn with some decent payoffs, but as a character study, it just left me shaking my head.

The film opens with idyllic scenes of Montana circa early 1960’s, with young cowboy James Blackledge working to break in a new horse in an early morning mist. His father George (Kevin Costner) is a retired lawman, now a quiet cowboy married to Margaret (Diane Lane).

James and his young bride Lorna (Kayli Carter) are proud parents of new baby boy Jimmy.

When James dies in a tragic accident about ten minutes into the film, we jump forward two years to Lorna marrying a new man, Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain). Their body language at the wedding is all wrong, we see no love or affection. 3 year old Jimmy cowers between them silently. George and Margaret notice it too.

Soon, Margaret’s concern goes off the charts after a chance encounter In which she sees Donnie hit both Lorna and her grandson.

When the trio suddenly move in the middle of the night, Margaret becomes singularly focused on going to get her grandson back.

And that’s where things start to come unhinged for the film.

There are great villains afoot. Jeffrey Donovan (Sicario) is perfectly twisted as a sociopath Weboy sibling Bill. Lesley Manville (so great in “The Phantom Thread”) is the terrifying matriarch of the Weboy clan, dripping with evil and violence just beneath the surface.

Booboo Stewart (Warpath in XMEN) gives a strong performance as well as Peter Dragswolf, pulled into the orbit of the pending Blackledge/Weboy confrontation.

It’s the meeting of the two clans that serves up the most trouble for me.

Costner is very good in a mostly quiet performance as a man so stoic that it’s hard to tell what he feels for most of the film. His explosive moment with Margaret after the hotel room confrontation is all the better for his quiet history until that point.

But Margaret is the most baffling character. I completely understand her commitment to her grandson. I’d walk through fire for mine. But some of the choices she makes at the expense of others are baffling. Twice in the film, we literally said “she’s nuts!” out loud. It took me out of the film at what were supposed to be its most powerful scenes.

The explosive finale at the Weboy homestead is good, not great. Suspenseful but predictable and loaded with characters whose actions better serve the screenplay than the way humans really behave.

By the end of the film, I started thinking about the similarities between Manville’s Blanche and Ladd’s Margaret. There are far too many ways these women are alike.

Fierce protection of their families? Check. An almost flippant reaction to loved ones killed or maimed in their quest to protect their families? Check.

If I felt like the film was trying to make those points, I’d give it more credit.

But it feels more like poorly defined characters moved around the chess board by bad writing.

Costner and Ladd deserve better. Manville steals the movie and runs away across the Montana landscape, taking most of the film’s credibility with her.

LET HIM GO gets a C.

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