Entertainment » Movies

Review: Family Drama 'Let Him Go' is Quiet, Intense

by Padraic Maroney
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Jan 19, 2021
Kevin Costner and Diane Lane in 'Let Him Go'
Kevin Costner and Diane Lane in 'Let Him Go'  

It's not often that a film comes along that blatantly targets an older audience. Studios tend to like films meant to appeal to a younger, multi-demographic crowd. It's a way for them to try to maximize their profits. It's part of why we don't see as many lower budget films premiere in theaters anymore.

However, every once in awhile, a film slips through. The latest example is the captivating "Let Him Go," which also offers a showcase for its female cast members — mainly Diane Lane and Lesley Maville.

Based on the novel of the same name by author Larry Watson, "Let Him Go" centers on a retired couple mourning the loss of their son. Their grief is further compounded when their daughter-in-law marries and announces that she and her son — their grandchild — will be leaving Montana to move closer to her groom's family in the Dakotas. Worried about her new husband's destructive ways and his even worse family, the couple set out to bring their grandson home to be with them — no matter the cost.

If the premise sounds simple and straightforward, you're right. When you read articles where they talk about films geared towards an older audience, this is what they are referring to. Much of the film is spent with characters talking and jockeying for position against each other. It's not until almost the end that anything much happens — though that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with the film. It never sets out to be a film to compete with the latest Marvel movie.

Instead, it accomplishes its goal of offering a slow-burning — and sometimes violent — story that will draw you in and not let go until the credits begin to roll. Much of the tension in the film comes from the jockeying between the characters. The spellbinding cast is to thank for that, as it is hard to look away from them. Being able to take dialogue and get the audience to hang on every word is something that less seasoned actors would struggle to accomplish.

"Let Him Go" is really a showcase to remind you — as if you could ever forget — how good Lane is in just about everything. Going into the film, you wouldn't be wrong to assume that Costner would be the focal point of this Western-tinged drama. But the actor happily takes a backseat to his cinematic wife, and they are both better for it. She is no-nonsense in her role as Margaret Blackledge: Determined to reunite her family and still maternal to those around her, even though she is no longer a mother herself.

Costner and Lane had previously played the iconic couple of Martha and Jonathan Kent (a.k.a. Superman's Earth parents) in the DC Universe films. Having that previous onscreen experience helps to provide a shorthand for the actors here. The two have such an easy chemistry that it will feels like they should have been playing a married couple for much longer than they actually have.

Another stellar turn, albeit one that is sorely underused, comes from Lesley Manville. Though it feels like her hair could come to life and consume her at any moment, Manville owns the handful of scenes that she appears in as the ruthless matron of the Weboy clan. It is her intent to keep her family together, regardless what needs to be done to achieve that goal. Manville is delicious in the villainous turn, reigning over the most uncomfortable dinner scene since "August: Osage County."

Director Thomas Bezucha ("The Family Stone"), who also wrote the screenplay, is adept at maneuvering the tone of the film from scenes that are dialogue-heavy to the more tense scenes, leading up to the climatic showdown. Less experienced directors could give audiences whiplash while trying to marry the two tones that the film juggles.

Filled with rich characters and beautiful landscapes, "Let Him Go" is the kind of film that doesn't come around too often. It has a simple concept and is also captivating, brutal, and at times rather violent. The violence sometimes feels even more difficult because of how quiet the rest of the film is, and how effortless the two elements work in tandem. This dynamic is the reason that you won't want to let this film go unseen.


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