Film Review: Let Him Go

STUDIO: Focus Features/Universal | DIRECTOR: Thomas Bezucha | CAST: Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Lesley Manville, Kayli Carter, Jeffrey Donovan
RELEASE DATE: Oct. 23, 2020
SPECS: R | 114 min. | Crime drama-thriller

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie 

Directed and adapted by Thomas Bezucha (The Family Stone) from an acclaimed novel by Larry Watson, Let Him Go is a stylish and surprising crime drama that is best described by “Montana Noir.”

The film stars Kevin Costner (Molly’s Game) as George Blackledge, a retired sheriff, and Diane Lane (Serenity), as his wife, a long-married couple living on a Montana ranch. After their son dies in a horseback riding accident, their daughter-in-law Lorna (Kayli Carter, Bad Education) and young grandson Jimmie move across the state into the house inhabited be her abusive new husband Donnie Weboy (Jeffrey Donovan, Honest Thief) and his family. The Blackledges decide to travel to Weboy’s home in hopes of bringing their grandson home, but they soon discover the task isn’t going to be so easy because of the family’s criminal nature,  including that of domineering matriarch Blanche Weboy (Lesley Manville, Ordinary Love).

Let Him Go begins as a solemn drama of how tragedy affects the Blackledge family, but develops into an edgy look at how the quiet George and feisty Margaret band together to confront the unpredictably malevolent Weboy clan in order to save their beloved grandchild, who they perceive to be endangered by the Weboys.

The film’s mood gradually transforms from bucolic to chaotic and eventually explosive the further the Blackledges proceed on their quest. Filled with some genuine surprises, Let Him Go shares similarities to David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence (2005) or David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water (2016), two other films about families, crime and violence in the heartland.

Although Costner is solid as the soft-spoken world-weary former lawman here, this really gets its pulse from its two primary female characters, the haunted, self-determined Lane and the convincingly over-the-top grandmother-from-hell Manville. Both are focused on pride for their families, as diametrically opposed as they are, and on retaining control of the young child. The fact that little Jimmie’s life is threatened keeps the tension meter on high throughout the film.

Let Him Go is sometimes poetic and sometimes overripe, but often gripping thanks to fine performances across the board and writer/director Bezucha’s handling of the difficult, mood-shifting material.

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.