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Mention the word “western” when describing a film like writer/director Thomas Bezucha’s Let Him Go, and certain pictures already start to form in the head of a potential audience member. Long rides on horseback, shades of frontier justice, and armed showdowns at high noon are some of the most frequent motifs that people almost feel are required when invoking that historic flavor of movie. While this cinematic adaptation of author Larry Watson’s does include all of those elements, the total package is additionally infused with a noirish element that crackles with both energy and character, making for one of the standout films of 2020.

Let Him Go is, at its heart, a story of family. After the untimely passing of their son, Margaret and George Blackledge (Diane Lane and Kevin Costner) embark on a journey to find their now remarried daughter-in-law (Kayli Carter) and their young grandson after they’ve seemingly taken off. As the couple gets closer to finding their family, they increasingly run afoul of a local family of influence: the Weboys. Headed by the intimidating Blanche (Lesley Manville), the Weboys are a threat, but the Blackledges won’t leave without a fight, and if they’re not careful, they just might get it.

Let Him Go is as big in scope as it is in emotion.

Even in the shadow of the limited theatrical market that’s available for a film like Let Him Go to debut in right now, Thomas Bezucha’s movie is rich in visual scope. From the intimacy of the Blackledge family residence and the infamous pork chop summit that introduces us to Blanche’s full family of villains, to the wide open spaces of the Midwest, every setting is left with a sense of grandeur that truly feels like a cinematic experience. Should you feel safe enough to head out to a movie theater, Let Him Go is a fantastic canvas to feast your eyes upon.

Should you be waiting to see the film in a home theater environment, it plays just as beautifully, as the eye for detail present brings a personal approach to the story's wider scope. As a consequence, the energy packed into the project comes through no matter how it’s viewed. While most of that is thanks to the visual acumen on display, there’s also a strong current of character work that propels the drama of Let Him Go with great confidence.

Diane Lane and Kevin Costner have insane chemistry as co-stars.

A huge part of what makes Let Him Go such a triumph is the fact that it reteams actors Diane Lane and Kevin Costner, working side by side for the first time since their pairing in Man of Steel. The reunion nails all of the elements present into a cohesive harmony, as Margaret and George’s relationship makes up the heart of Let Him Go’s story, and by casting Lane and Costner in those roles investing in the journey is all the easier. What’s even better is that both performers stand on their own two feet in their respective parts, with moments that allow them to shine individually on top of their collaboration.

Let Him Go doesn’t merely rest on the charm of Diane Lane or Kevin Costner, though, as there’s a deep bench of performers that weave through the thrilling story. Lesley Manville is a particular standout, as her Blanche Weboy runs a tight ship when it comes to handling her kin, and with a measure of menace that’s always waiting for an excuse to be released. Manville give Blanche a believable veneer of good nature, but even behind her smile the audience can sense the true nature of every word she utters.

Writer/director Thomas Bezucha delivers a top notch western with Let Him Go.

An absolutely stunning drama that harkens back to films of a bygone era, Let Him Go delivers a western noir masterpiece that grips the heart every step of the way. Thomas Bezucha’s adaptation skills continue to serve him well, as his literary-inspired character drama finds a way to make every interaction a battle, and every set piece a taut exercise in tension. Using Kevin Costner and Diane Lane’s natural ease as co-stars, on top of Lesley Manville’s ability to bring a very human adversary to life, characters make Let Him Go an urgent fight for family.

Audiences are probably gearing up to enjoy the traditional offerings of cinematic gravitas that start to take hold of the pre-prestige season marketplace, and Let Him Go presents itself as something that gladly fits the bill. But behind the easily marketable facade is a richly rewarding experience that shows exactly how they don’t make ‘em why they used to. By time you’ve finished watching Let Him Go, you’ll find yourself questioning why they don't.

9 / 10 stars
Rating: movie reviewed star rating out of five
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