Chloé Zhao (director)
14 September 2018 (released)
11 September 2018
Brady Blackburn (Brady Jandreau) has the rodeo world at his feet, beck and call. A star in the ascendance and everything that comes with it. Then his world is pulled from under him after a near fatal accident, that leaves him in a coma for three days. The upshot is that he can’t ride again. How he copes with this, his family and his future is the driving force of this wonderful film.
Brady’s life isn’t over in the literal sense but from his perspective as rider, it is. No matter that he has a natural gift training the animals and that it’s in demand, it’s the saddle that beckons. To complicate things, his father Wayne (Tim Jandreau) is a gambling addict, and his loving sister Lilly (Lilly Jandreau) has Asperger’s Syndrome. Money is a constant problem and with no earnings coming in, Wayne is forced to sell Brady’s horse just so they can stay in their trailer.
The fact is Brady is a cowboy and has known no other life; rodeo and riding were his way out of the humdrum and the stifling life that he and his family are in. His friends, still associated with the rodeo, are a constant reminder, of what was. Equally there is his close friend Lane Scott (played by himself) severely disabled after a bull riding accident and in hospital, and what could be.
With apparently few options, Brady starts to ride and train horses again and gets gradually pulled back into the world of rodeo. His mind and body aren’t in sync with the result is that he’s soon back in hospital.
The Rider is a beautiful film that works on a number of levels. Set in South Dakota, visually, it is stunning with the panoramic landscapes dovetailing gracefully with tighter scenes where Brady trains the horses. These with very little dialogue, and a superb sound design, say as much as page or two of script.
On a human level Brady struggles with his own aspirations and the expectations of others on him, and there’s Wayne with his addiction fully aware of his own responsibilities towards his family. These are age old issues that men have grappled with and will continue to as traditional roles are challenged, change and evolve.
Their relationship is strained but they are bound by the indefatigable golden hearted Lilly. That the performances are first class and instinctive maybe not much of a surprise as the Jandreaus are playing fictionalised versions of themselves.
There’s little true character development; the death of Brady’s mother is alluded to though not over played, and left to the viewer to pick up. Writer and director Chloé Zhao has crafted a sophisticated rawness; it has a basic stripped back natural aspect, twined with complex training and rodeo sequences, that taken with the very live social issues, make this a very impressive and thoughtful film.