A new gothic western with some Old West sensibilities. Searchers anyone?
Let Him Go
Director: Thomas Bezucha (The Family Stone)
Screenplay: Bezucha from Larry Watson novel
Runtime: 1h 54m
Cast: Diane Lane (Trumbo), Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves)
By: John DeSando
Let Him Go is a western-gothic crime thriller with a North Western setting and some resemblance to vintage oaters like The Searchers. The search has elemental film roots with mental and physical violence enhanced by Leslie Manville as a bad grandma and her wicked sons.
It’s fun to see the bad guys get roughed up. It’s also satisfying to see the searching-for-family motif of contemporary super-hero films played out in the Western plains even if it was filmed in Calgary. The craggy mountains and little towns complement the learly sixties setting when love and crime occur in simple but stark ways.
Retired Montana Sheriff George (Kevin Costner) and his wife, Margaret (Diane Lane), search for their grandson, Jimmy (Bram Hornung and Otto Hornung) after the death of their son, James (Ryan Bruce). Former daughter-in=law Lorna (Kavli Carter) left abruptly with new husband, Donny Weboy (Will Britain), and grandson, relocating under duress to North Dakota and his family-Weboy territory where matriarch Blanche (Manville) wields absolute power. Very bad move. The chase begins.
Lane and Costner are in top-aging form, tough and tenderhearted enough to fight the Weboy clan for the grandson. This is a different, more nuanced role for them when they were Superman’s parents. Let Him Go adds an authenticity to the thriller formula by emphasizing the devotion of the loving couple to each other and their quest to keep the family whole, or at least provide a fitting family life for their grandson.
The usual Western tropes apply like the corrupt sheriff, bad grandma and sons, the kind stranger, the tough mother, and the epic ending battle. What goes beyond the formula is the sincere love propelling the plot and corralling our hearts. And, of course, the fully-seasoned Lane and Costner.
Let Him Go is much more than the genre it represents.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JohnDeSando62@gmail.com