(103 mins, 15) Directed by Chloé Zhao; starring Brady Jandreau, Tim Jandreau, Lilly Jandreau, Lane Scott
Chinese-American director Chloé Zhao’s golden-hour-hued second feature sees the film-maker return to South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian reservation, where her 2015 debut, Songs My Brothers Taught Me, was set. Working with nonprofessional actors from the Pine Ridge community, Zhao tells the fictionalised true story of bareback bronc rider Brady Blackburn (played by real-life rodeo competitor Brady Jandreau). Brain and body both damaged in an accident, the local superstar is plagued with seizures that make it unsafe for him to do the one thing he’s good at. It’s jarring to see him with staples in the back of his head, stuck stacking shelves in the town’s supermarket.
Brady gives up his horse (though not his saddle), turning his hand to training instead of riding. Zhao makes poetry of this loss. One mesmerising set piece sees him breaking in a baby bronc, communicating with the horse in a non-verbal dance of attention, patience and understanding. Though it’s filmed like a romance, the moment feels captured, not staged.