No clever segue. I’ve seen this trailer pop up more than a couple of times, but only in out-of-the-way theaters.
The story looks like it’s about a cowboy who got injured, suffers from having seizures, and if he attempts to ride a horse again, it could kill him, and he’s struggling with this reality.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Brady Jandreau, making his debut. Congrats, sir.
Now for the crew. Writing and directing is Chloé Zhao, known for short films. Composing the score is Nathan Halpern, known for documentaries. The cinematographer is Joshua James Richards, known for short films. Finally, the editor is Alex O’Flinn, known for THE BAD BATCH (2017).
I have no idea what to make of this film. It looks like it’s a fictional drama, but most of the actors are playing characters with their same real-world names. For example, Brady Jendreau’s character’s name is Brady Blackburn. But… some have completely different names, and some even keep their entire names, like Cat Clifford. So… are these fictionalized versions of themselves? What’s the deal? I don’t know, this is either going to be really good, or really not.
This is my honest opinion of: THE RIDER
After suffering a horrible injury during a rodeo, cowboy Brady Blackburn (Brady Jandreau) recently checked himself out of the hospital and went home against the wishes of the hospital that wants him to rest. While he recovers, Brady struggles with the reality that he may never ride in a rodeo again, lest he suffer an even worse injury, or even death.
Two weeks late, but I’m finally getting this out there. Sowwy! Anyway, this movie was pretty good. I don’t know if I can rave about it like the poster is, but it’s worth it.
The first thing to acknowledge is that this movie really is kind of a pseudo-documentary. Docudrama, I think the film savvy community calls them. I say this because the character, Brady Blackburn is basically his own actor, Brady Jandreau, whom both suffered the same horse-related injury, everyone in his family is played by his real-life family, and he has a close relationship with famed former bull rider, Lane Scott, who also plays himself.
Quite honestly, I had it pegged that I wasn’t going to like this movie purely based on the opening visuals. Literally, in my notes, I had already labeled this movie as pretentious. Close-up, slow-mo shots of a horses hooves as it runs, yeah, I get it, movie. Horses are strong animals and do a serious amount of damage. “Don’t fear, but respect its strength.” Well, thankfully it was just that first, what, twelve seconds? The rest of the movie is significantly more heartfelt, and upon thinking about it, these are eventually justified by the end of the movie, so I’ll give it a pass.
One of the primary concerns that I had with this flick was that these aren’t professional actors and I was worried that the lack of experience would take me out of it. While I’ll sing some praise in a minute, my concerns did come to fruition from time to time. Whenever they’re clearly supposed to be acting with a script and whatnot, I don’t get much out of it. Any time when Brady is supposed to be lashing out at his dad Wayne (Tim Jandreau), they’re pretty dispassionate, or the scene can get a little boring. However, I will still argue that this film was still expertly directed, knowing exactly what to showcase from these people, and how to showcase it. The movie feels its most raw and real when we’re watching Brady watching the footage of his bronco-riding accident and how difficult it is for him to see his fall, both in the literal and metaphorical sense. When he’s around that campfire with his friends, shooting the shit about Lane Scott in his heyday before his car crash. Any time when there’s a non-dramatic scene with Brady and his special-needs teen sister Lilly (Lilly Jandreau), and how they have this really loving relationship. And when we’re actually watching Brady training horses, the insane amount of patience and precise touching of the horse’s face, all of these are as real as an actual documentary. And despite the slow pacing of the film as a whole, I’d be lying if I said that the movie wasn’t still compelling. Irony of ironies, eh? The explosive drama is boring, but the low-key and more subtle moments are the most intriguing.
There’s also a respectable amount of representation in this movie. Not just Lilly, who is so funny and adorable, but with Lane too. While I can neither claim to be an expert on what happened to him, nor would I pretend to be an expert on brain trauma in general, but this movie does showcase the trifecta of fear, complications, and hope when suffering through a brain injury like this. It doesn’t look like Lane has completely lost his ability to understand what’s going on around him, as evidenced by his basic signing of letters to spell out words and sentences, but he’s severely limited on his range of movement, and even to make sound. Though that could just be circumstantial. But he’s not without joy in his heart. He’s constantly shown love and support from his friends, and shows love and support, himself, so it’s clearly a hard, but not a miserable new life that he’s found. What I find even more poetic is how Lane reflects multiple outcomes for Brady. In that, if Brady goes along with his desires to ride a horse, he could end up like Lane, but he also represents the embrace of a new life, a newfound sense of happiness, and a hopeful future.
Overall, I can see where the high praise comes from, and I’m not planning to argue. Having said that, I can’t say I loved this movie that much. The movie is only an hour and forty-five minutes long, but it feels like it’s three hours. And so long as the actors aren’t acting and just being themselves, then the movie is downright wonderful. The cinematography is great, the raw emotions are powerful, and the harsh realities keep you thinking. And that ending. Hell yeah, that ending. It’s poignant, unique, or unique enough that I don’t see it enough in movies like this with that “one last time” theme going on. In any case, yes, I recommend this movie, especially if you’re someone who loves cowboy-centric movies. I wouldn’t call it “movie of the year” or anything, but there’s plenty of great things that shouldn’t be missed.
My honest rating for THE RIDER: a strong 4/5