The Rider

The Observer - The New Review - - Film -

(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.

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