Let Him Go (2020)

Kevin Costner. Diane Lane. Let Him Go. A film few people saw.  It is an unsettling and grim film.  Had I dug a little deeper and read some reviews, I might have skipped over this film.  I like both lead actors, and Jeffrey Donovan (Burn Notice) is a favorite of mine, but it is a serious and sometimes difficult film to watch.

In recent years, Costner has shifted to character roles in big films (Hidden Figures, Man of Steel) and lead parts in smaller films. He has also found some juicy parts in cable series: Hatfields & McCoys, and Yellowstone.  At 66 years old, he certainly can be choosey about when he works.

Lane is the spine of this story, the grandma that is determined to protect her young grandson. She would walk through fire to make sure he is safe. She has to convince her husband (Costner) to go find their grandson after his mother and new stepfather take off, going out of state without saying goodbye.  Margaret (Lane) breaks horses on their ranch, she has plenty of starch, and expresses her own views on things.

The story takes place in 1961 Montana. It’s a very downbeat tale of grandparents who are desperate to reconnect with their grandson, the only family they have left. In 1961, grandparents had no rights. When their daughter-in-law remarries, the mean side comes out in her new husband, which frightens Margaret. The new husband takes his family back to his family in North Dakota. These people are scary and are clannish in their seclusion and reputation in the small community.

The two families clash and efforts to get their daughter-in-law and grandson to leave with them fail. This intensifies the conflict and it becomes obvious the local sheriff will not help them.

Like Costner in Open Range, he must stare down trouble being outnumbered. I will not spoil the ending in case you want to see the film.  This plays out like a Western film, although it takes place in modern times, these are folks that have old fashioned values, are self-reliant, and understand they must solve their own problems.

Costner’s George, a retired sheriff, is a man of quiet principle, who hides his feelings and uses his stoic nature to convey much of his expression.  He is not as quick to act and uses a measure of reflection before he leaps.  Margaret is much more reactive, and she keeps the film from bogging down.  Lane is a decade younger than Costner in real life, but the film ages her slightly to balance Costner’s more leathery look.

The story is fairly simple, but the emphasis is on the characters, mostly George and Margaret.  The film’s writer/director, Thomas Bezucha, does a good job of keeping his foot on the accelerator, moving the story forward and building the dramatic tension.  The Weboy family, who have the grandson, are not hillbillies exactly, but they are clan-like in their withdrawal from conventions of society.  At times, I thought they were a bit over the top in their crazy, but I have no doubt people like this exist in numbers.  Move forward 60 years and these folks would likely be part of the insurrection at the capital on January 6.

The photography and scenery are beautiful to look at.  While Canada filled-in for Montana and North Dakota, I think you get the idea of the lonely and wide open landscape, where justice is still sometimes outside of the limits of the law.

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