Taking a B-movie plot and fusing it with A-level heart and performances, the suspense drama Let Him Go is exactly the type of film we need right now, with its story of good people going against a family of bullies who clearly outnumber them. In a story that seems to be set sometime in the late 1960s/early 1970s, Diane Lane and Kevin Costner play Margaret and George Blackledge, a quiet but loving couple living on their Montana ranch with their grown son James (Ryan Bruce) and his wife Lorna (Kayli Carter) and their infant son Jimmy (played by twins Bram and Otto Hornung). James is tragically killed in an accident on the property, and after many months, Lorna begins seeing and eventually marries a seemingly good man named Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain).
One day without warning, Lorna, Donnie and little Jimmy leave the motel they’re staying in, giving no warning to the Blackledges as to their destination. George is a retired sheriff, so his investigative powers—combined with his wife’s refusal to lose sight of their grandson—set them on the right path to the Weboy family ranch in North Dakota, where the Weboys effectively control the area, lead by matriarch Blanche (a wonderfully nasty turn by Lesley Manville). It turns out her youngest (of four boys), Donnie, tried to get away but was tempted or coerced into returning with his new family, essentially making them the family’s prisoners. When the Blackledges arrive, they do so under the guise of just wanting to see their grandson, when in fact they have every intention of removing him and Lorna from their situation.
On their travels, George and Margaret discuss the prospects and challenges they’ll have as an older couple raising a toddler, with George even speculating that perhaps Jimmy is better off where he is. But once he gets a look at the boy’s surroundings and the Weboy family dynamic, he becomes as resolute as his wife. Jeffrey Donovan is particularly noteworthy as the eldest Weboy, Bill, who is the first of the family members to meet the Blackledges. He comes on with a snake-like charm in an attempt to invite the couple to dinner at the ranch so the Weboys can make their intentions clear and establish the power dynamic quickly. It’s a chilling sequence, and less-secure people might have hightailed it out of town after that.
After a botched attempt at meeting Lorna at her job and talking her into meeting them late at night with Jimmy to escape, the Weboys teach the Blackledges a lesson about attempting to cross them. One of the film’s unexpected elements is the presence of Booboo Stewart as young Native American man Peter Dragswolf, living off the grid outside the town that the Weboys control, who takes pity on the Blackledges both on their ride into town initially and then after they suffer a tremendous defeat days later. Margaret in particular seems to gain inspiration from Peter’s stand to live outside of society rather than get treated like a second-class citizen.
Directed and adapted by Thomas Bezucha (The Family Stone) from the novel by Larry Watson, Let Him Go isn’t afraid to dip its toe in different genres on its way to being a classic David vs. Goliath, last-stand Western. It dabbles in family drama, detective stories and the classic tale of a criminal family being defied by upstarts. At its core, Lane and Costner (together again after playing Superman’s adoptive parents in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman) have great chemistry, knowing how to maneuver a potentially confrontational discussion into something useful and strengthening. They feel very lived-in as a couple, and it makes their resolve to beat this awful family all the more believable. The film is also brutally honest that sometimes it takes sacrifice (in many forms) to defeat a greater evil. Let Him Go is a surprisingly emotional experience that also works on a suspense level, and the result is something that feels both old fashioned in its approach yet utterly unique in the current cinematic landscape.
The film opens theatrically on Friday, November 6. Please follow venue, state and CDC health and safety guidelines if attending indoor screenings.
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