Let Him Go

Let Him Go

2020, R, 114 min. Directed by Thomas Bezucha. Starring Thomas Bezucha with Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Kayli Carter, Lesley Manville, Jeffrey Donovan, Booboo Stewart, Will Brittain.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Nov. 6, 2020

You’d be forgiven if you half-expected Superman to fly in to save the day in the Western thriller Let Him Go. That’s because writer/director Thomas Bezucha (The Family Stone, Monte Carlo) has cast as his film’s protagonists the same actors, Diane Lane and Kevin Costner, who played the Man of Steel’s terrestrial parents in Zack Snyder’s recent screen versions of the tale. No superheroes come flying to the rescue in Let Him Go, however. Cast as long-married couple Margaret and George Blackledge, Lane and Costner embody similar attributes as Superman’s Earthly protectors: faith, courage, and white-bread American values. Set in Montana and North Dakota sometime during the mid-20th century, Let Him Go nevertheless throws a whole lot of crazy in the Blackledges’ direction. By the second half of the film, this Western thriller turns Southern Gothic. It’s this change in tone that distinguishes the film yet is also its downfall.

Let Him Go is based on Larry Watson’s novel of the same title. Three generations live on the Blackledges’ Montana ranch. In addition to Margaret and George, the couple’s son James and his wife live there with their newborn son Jimmy. Early on, James dies in a freak horse-riding accident. In the next scene, we see Margaret somberly tying the knot in George’s necktie, and we assume they are getting dressed for their son’s funeral. The film transitions, however, to three years later at the remarriage of their daughter-in-law Lorna (Carter) to Bill Weboy (Donovan). While in town not long afterward, Margaret observes through her car windshield Bill slapping her now-3-year-old grandson and his mother. A few days later, they’ve vanished without a word. Presumably, Bill has taken Lorna and Jimmy back to his family in North Dakota. Margaret and George, a retired sheriff, take off in pursuit, and whomever they ask about the whereabouts of the Weboy clan (pronounced wee-boy), evinces a shudder of nervousness and trepidation that’s as off-putting as the sound of the odd surname.

Lane, as usual, is brilliant as the determined but tight-lipped Blackledge matriarch. Costner demonstrates, as he did in The Upside of Anger, what a stolid but complementary presence he can be for assertive female characters. The Blackledges are in over their heads once they finally meet up with the Weboys, an isolated family of peculiar men and their crazy and domineering mother, Blanche (Manville), who can make a pork-chop dinner sound threatening. Her deranged and absolute control of her grown boys calls to mind characters like Shelley Winters’ unhinged Ma Barker in Bloody Mama or off-the-chain Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom. Grotesque violence and gothic horror occur during this section of the film.

This tonal change perks up the storyline, which has grown somewhat staid during the Blackledges’ search. It’s as if evil just drops into the storyline, however, and its ferocity seems as inexplicable as some other aspects of the film (such as the ill-developed subplot of the Native American boy Peter). The performances in Let Him Go are engrossing (even if the characters are a bit underdeveloped), but the film’s gear change between mournfulness and madness is stuck in idle.

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More Thomas Bezucha Films
The Family Stone
This likable romantic comedy runs the gamut of emotions – hitting tenderness, rage, remorse, and everything in between – but there are too many characters with too little chemistry to be a real keeper.

Kimberley Jones, Dec. 16, 2005

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
Joy Ride
Raunchy road trip goes all the way to China for filthy fun

July 7, 2023

All That Breathes
The struggle by three men to save the endangered black kite

March 31, 2023


Let Him Go, Thomas Bezucha, Thomas Bezucha, with Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Kayli Carter, Lesley Manville, Jeffrey Donovan, Booboo Stewart, Will Brittain

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