Directed By: Thomas Bezucha
Written By: Thomas Bezucha (screenplay) ; Larry Watson (novel)
In Theaters: November 6, 2020
Runtime: 1Hr 54 Mins
Starring: Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Lesley Manville
Let Him Go is a new neo-western film that stars Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as two grandparents, George and Margaret Blackledge, who seek to reunite with their grandson after witnessing the abuse of their widowed daughter-in-law with her new family.
What works for Let Him Go is the casting and performances of all the characters. Costner and Lane have great on-screen chemistry and embody two grandparents who are willing to sacrifice everything they have to bring their family back to safety. The opposing family, known as the Weboy family, are great at being ruthless, intimidating, and they are downright a force not to be reckoned with. Lesley Manville’s performance as Blanche Weboy, who is at the top of the hierarchy, is top-notch. Every scene she is in has a rumbling tension beneath the surface that is just waiting to boil over.
Let Him Go has quite a few scenes that are suspenseful and gritty. It’s not the film you would want to watch as a whole family because it does meander in some dark territories that will put you on the edge of your seat and leave you breathless. I had to look away during one interaction that involves an ax meeting fingers. With that said, I think one of the more critical drawbacks of the film is the tonal shifts present throughout it.
The first act has a slow build-up trying to set up the situation. It comes off as a straightforward drama that could have benefited from having fluff trimmed off to get to the point. The second act’s transition is when it enters into thriller territory once the Weboy family makes their introduction. However, their introduction comes off as over-the-top and very much like a Texas Chainsaw family reunion to the point where their motives become less clear as time goes on. At times they feel like they are ruthless for the sake of being evil, and it’s at those times when the film comes off a cheesy and not fully developed. The third act mixes elements from the first two acts to make a mediocre send-off that doesn’t quite have the emotional punch it seemed to be aiming for initially. Along those same lines, there are situations that feel like it would have a payoff by the end, but are left untouched and ultimately feels like missed opportunities to expand characters and the overall situation.
Without a doubt, Diane Lane’s character, Magaret Blackledge, has more drive in the story than Costner’s emotionally removed retired sheriff trope. And without a doubt, the third act, to some degree, erases all expectations her character sought to accomplish as Costner replaces her to try and be the heroic savior of their family and their values. It undid a lot for me emotionally and left me feeling perplexed by the end. I wonder if they had chosen to take more of a risk if it would have a better emotional payoff than what it leaves us with as it stands.
Let Him Go is a good film given the year that 2020 has been. It’s not the greatest, but it’s not the worst. It has issues with pacing and creative decisions I think could have been expanded on, and so if you can look past those, then perhaps this film will at least be enjoyable. The performances are worth mentioning and I would recommend people watch this for that alone. I do think it has heart in the beginning, but somewhere in the middle it loses its way, and comes out with a half-hearted way of saying “ta-da!” as it struggles to balance it’s inconsistent tone throughout the film.
Overall, I give Let Him Go 3/5 stars.