A life can be measured in an abundance of ways: tallying up personal successes, wealth, moments of pleasure, how we treat others — but perhaps, in the end, it comes down to what we chose to do with the time we’re given. We can save it for ourselves, or we can give it away to someone who needs it, which, as demonstrated in Thomas Bezucha’s slow-burn drama Let Him Go, it is that single decision that can be the cause of happiness or heartbreak.
Starring film veterans Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, the story follows the Blackledge family, who, welcoming the demands of hard-work and toughness, live a tranquil life on their Montana farmyard with their son James (Ryan Bruce) and his young wife Lorna (Kayli Carter) — who also have a child of their own. After the unexpected loss of James, however, George (Costner) and Margaret (Lane) care for their son’s widow and their grandson Jimmy as if they were truly their own. Lorna eventually remarries. Out running errands in town one afternoon, Margaret witnesses Lorna and Jimmy being treated roughly by her new husband Donnie (Will Britain). Days later, they’ve left town and Margaret, being the resolute woman that she is, intends to bring back her grandson, feeling that Lorna is incapable of protecting him from his new father figure. George agrees to go with her, if only to keep her out of trouble, and the pair head off to North Dakota, in the hopes of tracking down Donnie’s family, the notorious Weboy clan. The very name Weboy is met with anxiety that borders on fear in the surrounding community, a truth that George and Margaret soon learn for themselves. Following their arrival in Gladstone, Donnie’s hometown, they come face to face with Blanche Weboy (Leslie Manville) and she makes it clear that Jimmy is not about to walk out of her house without a fight. As discreetly as the Blackledges try to be, words spread like wildfire in a small town, bloodshed in its wake.
Shot on location in Calgary and Drumheller Alberta, Let Him Go is an adaptation of Larry Watson’s novel of the same name. Alberta’s expanse is photographic, yet its western beauty of monotonous shades of browns and yellow-greens, and the greys of the big sky all work in unison to hide a cold harshness, a physical metaphor that encompasses the light and the darkness that is present in the Blackledges’ struggle to keep their family together.
Act one is a bit slow, as the sombre mood overshadows each aspect of Bezucha’s film. Once you hit the hour mark, things topple like dominos, and the situation spirals out of everyone’s control. Risk is what ultimately drives every individual in the end. Costner and Lane share an easy, heartful chemistry, and it is refreshing to see an older, wiser couple on screen leaning on one another in times of trouble.
The choice to let go takes on multiple meanings as viewers watch the film: letting go of the past, memories, what you cannot control, guilt and regret, pain, and letting go of loved ones if that’s what’s best for them. Love and heartbreak go hand in hand; this universal experience poses as a reminder of the fragility but also of the strength of the human condition. The durability of familial bonds, whether kind or cruel, blood or not, are continually put to the test throughout the film. Lives are built on the backbone of sacrifice, and as the Blackledges take great lengths to prove, family is worth that particular cost.
Let Him go is out in cinemas from November 6th
by Kacy Hogg
Kacy is an English Lit student living in the Great White North (no not Winterfell unfortunately), Canada. Her favourite films include the Harry Potter series, Cinderella, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Hangover, and Lady Bird. She’s also an avid binge-watcher of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. You can follow her on Twitter here: @KacHogg95