Movie Reviews

The Rider – Small Scale and Big Ideas Match Well

This one teaches us that a low budget can sometimes make a film even better!

Synopsis: After a tragic riding accident, young cowboy Brady, once a rising star of the rodeo circuit, is warned that his competition days are over. Back home, Brady finds himself wondering what he has to live for when he can no longer do what gives him a sense of purpose: to ride and compete. In an attempt to regain control of his fate, Brady undertakes a search for new identity and tries to redefine his idea of what it means to be a man in the heartland of America. (Sony Pictures Classics)

Starring: Brady Jandreau, Tim Jandreau, and Lilly Jandreau

Writer: Chloé Zhao

Director: Chloé Zhao

Rating: 14A (Canada)/R (United States)

Running Time: 104mins

Trailer: 

For showtimes and more, check out The Rider on movietimes.com.

The Rider is an incredibly low budget film, especially low for a film put out by such a distributor as Sony Pictures Classics. This is definitely not a bad thing, but it does mean that the less technical aspects of the film have to be spot on- the acting, the atmosphere and the writing. Thankfully, in her sophomore directorial and screenwriting effort, Chloe Zhao has crafted quite an intimate and emotional portrait of a man who feels lost without his passion- with non-actors further developing the realism in this already immersive story.

The best thing The Rider has going for it is clearly the realistic feel that it has. Most of the cast members are the people from the story the film is based upon- which includes standout Brady Jandreau, the lead of the film who in fact, suffered the exact same injury in real life. Jandreau’s interactions with his real life, fellow non-actor family members feel extremely grounded. The fact that Jandreau has lived a very similar story himself creates a sense of authenticity that is unlike many similar films before it. This is, without a doubt, the highlight of this film, and as crazy as it is- a cast fully assembled of non-actors provide one of the best ensemble casts of the year.

Along with the fact that the film was shot on location, in a rural town, even further develops this already integrated authenticity. The way Zhao decided to shoot the film gives the setting a very warm feel, and manages to create a more intimate experience. Also, as odd as it sounds, the sound design is great- and it’s combination with the stunning visuals further add to the overall immersive experience.

Back when this film played at TIFF, and through its run, playing at various festivals, this film has been receiving high praise. EXTREMELY high praise- for it’s emotional storytelling, mostly. While they do a good job portraying the emotional side of the story, and making Jandreau’s story really intriguing, there are points where the film is a bit faulty. To begin, at its 105 minute running time is definitely a disservice. Although this does seem short, the main reason why this is problematic is that it doesn’t need to be. Although we get the message of the story Zhao is trying to tell us throughout, it meanders quite heavily. The way that the story is told, simply showing a very short window of Jandreau’s life that didn’t lead into anything. It also doesn’t have any end point to reach which makes it difficult not to tune out at times.

For the most part, The Rider manages to reach the goal of creating a grounded, realistic story, which is mainly successful through its performances and small scale, which match with the messages Zhao attempts to embed seamlessly. Although this isn’t one to rush out for, and it is a tad overrated, it’s definitely worth checking out in the near future.

Score: 7/10

Follow me on twitter @daniel_azbel and on letterboxd @danthemovieman.

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