Director: Chloé Zhao
Released: 14 September
Following on three years from her last feature, Zhao delves into another pocket of American life with The Rider by chronicling, in what has been called a ‘coming of age’ film, the career highs and lows of a young cowboy.
Using untrained actors playing slightly fictionalised accounts of their own lives, the crux of The Rider revolves around Brady Jandreau as he tries to recuperate after a horrible accident on the rodeo circuit. He wrestles with the prevalence of toxic masculinity around him and what it means to be a cowboy in the modern era. Does he give into peer pressure and continue where he left off or must he find another calling in life?
It’s not completely fair to call this a ‘coming of age’ drama, not in the traditional sense anyway. Rather than dealing with one character over a long period of time – youth going through the motions – Brady’s almost a man in spirit already and as such his dilemma concerns the far-reaching concepts of mortality and social standing. There may be comparisons to the recently released Lean on Pete, also a tale of a boy and his horse, but this one is less a progressive adventure drama and more of a psychological journey.
The pace is slow and The Rider is very much rutted into its South Dakota backdrop, claustrophobically so, leaving very little room to open up and manoeuvre with anything other than a relatively obvious storyline. Regardless, the concept is intriguing and the actors do a fine job, in particular the lead. There are some astonishing horse-whisperer scenes and the feature as a whole is a welcome and, at times, insightful documentation of a demographic we may know next to nothing about.
Words: Shane O’Reilly