The Rider (2018)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
The Rider is a story unlike anything we have seen this year. Using untrained, non-professional, and/or first-time actors, Chloé Zhao’s second feature is a fictionalized re-telling of a number of actual events.
22-year-old actor Brady Jandreau is impressive in the main role, carrying a quiet, contemplative movie on his shoulders with the ease of a seasoned veteran.
There is a legitimate reason why Chloé Zhao is a filmmaker lots and lots of people are talking about. This is why.
Will prove to be too slow and somber for some in the audience. Zhao is more concerned about Brady’s life, and all the potential trap doors around him, then by delivering action sequences and overwrought dialogue and situational drama.
Custom made for an art house crowd, this is a tough sell to mainstream audiences.
Why not just make a documentary then?
While its contemplative, slow burn style, and sparse dramatic beats will not engage a lot of mainstream moviegoers, Chloé Zhao’s critically acclaimed The Rider is a movie that you don’t just watch, you nestle in and become invested. This off-tempo and somber story of a young cowboy, struggling with his future after a devastating riding accident, will get its hooks in deep as you enter the world enveloping 20-something Brady Blackburn (Brady Jandreau).
Zhao, who earned a special award of merit from the Independent Spirit Awards for The Rider this past February, employs non-professional and first-time actors to tell Brady’s story.
We learn that during a rodeo competition, a catastrophic head injury left Brady forever connected to a steel plate in his head, which ends his prospects as a competitive rodeo star.
When he looks around at the world post-injury, he sees a makeshift group of family and friends who are seemingly lost without him. His sister Lilly (Lilly Jandreau, Brady’s real-life sister) suffers from an Asperger’s-like condition. His best friend and former rider Lane (Lane Scott) is disabled and in need of daily assistance. With his mother deceased, widowed father Wayne (Tim Jandreau, Brady’s real-life father) is stern and unemotional. Brady seemingly has no one to really talk to, making his ability to escape into a world of rodeo life and working with horses, the release he needs to stay focused and sane.
Gorgeous cinematography from Joshua James Richards allows Zhao to let her story unfold in a picturesque backdrop that orients us to the calm desolation that surrounds Brady everywhere he turns. He is a lost soul, caught between sadness, vulnerability, and the flickering machismo that comes with being in the rodeo and living as a modern-day cowboy. Capturing all of this beautifully, we get a strong performance from the debuting Brady Jandreau; creating a character that is real, raw, and striking in its honesty and complexity.
Observational by design, The Rider is comfortable just dropping us into and out of a life for a little more than 100 minutes, allowing us a chance to experience something on screen we do not typically get to experience. Resembling a young Heath Ledger, Jandreau is one of those actors the camera just loves, and Zhao, a friend to the Jandreau family, wrote The Rider after Brady’s real-life accident and recovery occurred.
Borne out of real-life events, The Rider is almost documentary-like in creation and feel. Potential viewers may find frustration with the film’s lack of a conventional framework, while others will simply get lost in the story Zhao and her cast are committed to telling on screen.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Brady Jandreau, Tim Jandreau, Lilly Jandreau, Lane Scott, Cat Clifford
Director: Chloé Zhao
Written by: Chloé Zhao
Release Date: April 13, 2018
Sony Pictures Classics