Saturday, February 13, 2021

Movie Reviews: Let Him Go

Let Him Go
directed by Thomas Bezucha

This is a combination Western/vigilante movie. I usually enjoy both of those genres. So I was set to enjoy this one. It hit most of the points that you expect to see in either of those types of films. But something was off. It took a minute for me to realize it but my problem was that the good guys in this film were not only breaking the law, but their reasons for doing so were weak. 
There have been some legal cases where a set of grandparents, or an aunt, uncle, cousin or other relative have attempted to obtain visitation to or custody of a child over the objections of that child's biological mother, father, or legal stepmother or stepfather. Usually absent some rather serious and chronic physical or sexual abuse, financial or medical incapacity, the parent(s) will win the case. Grandparents or other relatives do not have the right to see their minor relative unless the parent agrees.
Purely from spite a parent could take their children out of the state and refuse to let their grandparents visit. Such an action might be vile and malicious or it might be well considered and the right thing to do. But aside from the above exceptions, usually the state won't get involved.
Similarly, how a child is raised, when he or she is sent to bed, what foods they eat, how they are disciplined, where they go to school, what they read, and a hundred other decisions small and great are under the purview of the parents, not the grandparents.
 
This can be a source of friction between grandparents and parents. Ideally the parents should be open to the wisdom of older people who raised them while grandparents should never offer unsolicited advice on child rearing or publicly undercut the parent's authority. But sometimes things don't work out that way.
In the early sixties, George Blackledge (Kevin Costner) and his wife Margaret (Diane Lane) live on a Montana ranch with their son, his wife Lorna (Kayli Carter) and their grandson Jimmy. I don't think that Margaret would describe herself as bossy. But she often does get her way, whether it be interacting with her daughter-in-law over bath temperatures and diaper changes or debating with her husband George, a retired sheriff.
Unfortunately George's and Lorna's son breaks his neck and dies after he's thrown from a horse. Three years later the still grieving couple stand witness as Lorna marries Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain). 

And that raises a question doesn't it? Are they still family? Donnie doesn't appear to appreciate Margaret's routine visits. They're not his in-laws, after all. One day Margaret sees Donnie hit Jimmy for dropping ice cream and backhand Lorna for interfering.
Horrified, soon afterwards Margaret stops by Donnie's and Lorna's home to check on Jimmy and no doubt give Donnie a piece of her mind. But they've gone. All anyone knows is that Donnie is from somewhere in North Dakota. Worried sick about Jimmy and convinced that he'd be better off with her, with or without his mother, Margaret uses shame, emotion, and reason to convince George to accompany and assist her on her mission to track down Donnie and Lorna. 
George points out that the two of them are too old to raise a child again and have no right to take Jimmy away from his mother and legal stepfather. But as George knows, Margaret is stubborn. To mollify George, Margaret claims she just wants to say goodbye to Jimmy and perhaps set up some visitation.

This kicks off the roadtrip to hell. George and Margaret find the Weboys sure enough. But the Weboys, presided over by the mean and rough spoken matriarch Blanche Weboy (Lesley Manville), are a law unto themselves in the Dakotas. 
As far as Blanche is concerned Jimmy is a Weboy now. And if you say different or mutter anything unkind about her son Donnie, well you're going to have a problem with Blanche. And you'd be wise to avoid problems with Blanche, her lecherous but crafty brother Bill (Jeffrey Donovan), or her NFL sized sons.
This movie was probably about 20 minutes too long. It did spend a lot of time showing the wonderful Western (mostly Canadian) landscape. A husband especially but any man with integrity and honor is bound to protect and defend his female intimates or relatives even when the lady is in the wrong. Even if it's a lie, you fight on that lie.
That doesn't preclude two people having some private frank and intense conversations about needless pugnaciousness and unwise behavior. Just as they had in the Superman movie, Costner and Lane have good chemistry together. As always, Costner nails the plain spoken cowboy. This is a quiet thriller. Even though the story as a whole was predictable, it has enough surprises to keep the viewer engaged. 
Manville's Blanche is the sort of belligerent person who will take offense at almost anything you say. Some people have a surface prickliness that hides a soft hearted interior. Blanche is not one of those people. A subplot with a Native American suffering from forced racist assimilation goes nowhere. The film might have taken some time to explain a few things better than it did.
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