As soon as I watched the trailer, I knew that I wanted to see Let Him Go. Not only does it have an excellent cast that includes Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, and Leslie Manville but the plot, about two grandparents who want to rescue their grandson, resonated with me. Once I watched the movie, I found the cast every bit as exquisite as I expected, the plot gripping, the story poignant and heartbreaking, and I had the unexpected pleasant surprise of finding one of my favorite actors, Jeffrey Donovan of Burn Notice fame also in the movie. The film was a poignant modern-day western with heart and grittiness.
Written and directed by Thomas Bezucha, Let Him Go follows a retired sheriff, George Blackledge (Kevin Costner), and his wife Margaret (Diane Lane) who, after the death of their son, go off to rescue their daughter in law, Lorna (Kayli Carter) and their grandson from her new husband, Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain) and his family, in particular the matriarch Blanche Weboy (Leslie Manville). They gain the assistance of a young Native American, Peter Dragswolf (BooBoo Stewart) to help but are faced with the obstructions of Donnie’s entire family, particularly his mother and Bill Weboy (Jeffrey Donovan). And the question isn’t whether they will succeed in their mission but what will the pair have to sacrifice to save their family?
Let Him Go is not glib or suave. The story has depth and honesty both in the portrayals by the veteran cast but also in the plot itself. Upon seeing Kevin Costner face down the Weboys, a family living off the grid in the Dakotas in the sixties, you think he’ll face an easy time taking them down. He is confident, accomplished, and knows the law. And Margaret is resourceful and dedicated. She is not willing to give up on her grandson and will go to the ends of the earth to convince Lorna that she needs to escape her abusive husband Donnie before he irrevocably harms her son. But while both are passionate, they go head to head with Blanche, a matriarch who is willing to do anything to keep her family under her control, even those who aren’t born to it, like Lorna and her young son. Nothing goes as planned and the sacrifices that George and Margaret must face are what make the story gripping and the conflict both engaging and taut with tension.
The filmography is kept simple but the design of the set, clothing, vehicles, and buildings in the film is matched perfectly to the time period. Not only is the design perfect but so too are the actions of those around them. Peter is a young man who’s run away from one of the Indian Schools of the time, where his culture and identity have been erased. All of this is accurate and authentic to the time period. Lorna works in Montgomery Wards which is much smaller than it ultimately becomes thirty years later. Lorna doesn’t believe she can leave her husband which few did at the time. With that and quiet moments between George and Margaret, the film resonates with truth and simple beauty.
While the story is engrossing, it is the cast that carries the movie. Kevin Costner is the only actor I could see play this role, as he is perfectly suited as a retired sheriff. He is circumspect, he is confident, and he is accomplished. And he embodies George Blackledge as if he always was the man. Diane Lane is beautifully in charge as Margaret. She is the one that begins the quest to find her grandson, driven by her instincts and Diane Lane displays that dedication and determination with skill and charm. Leslie Manville as Blanche is exquisite, portraying Blanche as manipulative, controlling, and as deadly as a snake. She is so good as Blanche that I couldn’t visualize her as anyone else. But the true breakout performance for me was Jeffrey Donovan. He is charismatic but portrays a subtle menace and threat that gives off a psychotic vibe meshed with a desire to please. One moment he is all charm and the next you feel he would cut your throat. But the entire cast is excellent.
While the film does have slower moments, this being the only flaw I saw in an otherwise beautiful film, it is full of quiet scenes of beauty and introspection between George and Margaret. And that slow build, in the beginning, allows for an increase in the tension and conflict in the latter half of the film, the action coming in at the most critical moments between the families as George and Margaret sacrifice everything to save their young grandson and his mother. This is a modern-day western in all the good ways.
If you love westerns and absolutely perfect acting, this is the film for you. Every actor in this movie portrays their roles with subtle emotion and embodies their character with skill and talent. The story is engaging yet poignant, with heart and charm, and the love between Margaret and George is beautiful, even in moments of conflict between them. The characters are willing to sacrifice everything to help their family and that love counters the savage control of the Weboys. I found it gripping, emotional, and impossible not to watch.
Rating: 4.5 horses out of 5.