Love Story or Revenge Thriller?
Whether it’s Shelley Winters literally sponge-bathing her sons with motherly attention in Roger Corman’s Bloody Mama, or Jackie Weaver’s “Smurf” gleefully reminding her sons of all the bad things they’ve done in 2010’s Animal Kingdom, there’s just something ghoulishly alluring about stories that feature domineering mothers who hen over their brood of chicken-hearted sons
Add the Oscar-worthy performance of Leslie Manville (Maleficent: Mistress of Evil) into the mix as Blanche Weboy, the matriarchal head of the Weboy clan in Let Him Go, a film which also stars Kevin Costner (TV's Yellowstone) – no actor does rugged Montana ranch owner better, Diane Lane (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), and Kayli Carter (Bad Education). Despite the firepower at the top of the bill, it’s Manville whose strong performance not only steals the show but also throws the film’s second half into an exciting nail-biting tizzy.
Let Him Go, is directed by Thomas Bezucha, (The Family Stone). He also adapts the story from Larry Watson’s 2013 American neo-Western drama novel of the same name, which tells the story – set in the early 60s – of retired rural sheriff George Blackledge (Costner) and his wife Margaret (Lane) who are hit with tragedy in the film’s opening scenes when their adult son is killed in a horse riding accident, leaving behind his widow Lorna (Carter), and a young son.
Jump to three years later and we learn that Lorna has remarried to a man named Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain, Kong: Skull Island), a young man with strong ties to his family back in North Dakota. It’s not long before Margaret’s Mama Bear mode is activated when she spots Donnie striking both Lorna and her grandson.
However, before she can come to the rescue, Margaret learns that the newlyweds have pulled up stakes in the middle of the night and fled to North Dakota, without even saying goodbye. However, a hunch tells her that Lorna may not be a willing participant. George and Margaret are left with no choice but to fight for their family, no matter how high the cost.
The middle section of the film is the proverbial calm before the storm with gorgeous shots from DP Guy Godfree (Maudie) of the Canadian Rockies standing in for Big Sky Country and the Dakota Badlands which play nicely against Bezucha’s smoldering cauldron of courage and familial love.
Everything has a deliberate patience about it that lulls us in with its restraint and self-control before exploding into a disturbing little thriller in its final act. And wow, that final act! Manville’s Pork Chop Summit scene, which borrows heavily from East of Eden, will undoubtedly go down as one of the year’s best entrance scenes. It’s a true thing of beauty and kudos to Bezucha for its creative flair and flawless execution.
With the need to get the sudden change of tone just right without giving us whiplash, Bezucha is working with a high degree of difficulty. At its essence Let Him Go is a heartfelt love story built onto the chassis of a nail-biting revenge thriller. Bezucha’s biggest success comes from the amount of humanity he builds into his story about the marriage between Margaret and George as they set out to reunite their family.
Never underestimate the power of a mother bent on keeping her family together. In Let Him Go, we are front row witnesses to two of them doing just that. The price they are willing to pay may be incalculable. .
(Released by Focus Features and rated “R” for violence.)
Review also posted at www.franksreelreviews.com.