Whilst the Wild West might be a place lost in the dim and distant past, the notion of the cowboy still lingers in the American psyche. Whilst ‘Indians’ are no longer red and very much Native American, the relationship between a man and his horse still holds strong. There are still those who eke-out a living in the traditional way, whether that’s through ranching or rodeo. In a year which has seen a fresh focus on fractured masculinity (Western, Lean on Pete), Chloé Zhao’s new film The Rider breathes new life into the Badlands of South Dakota.
Brady (Brady Jandreau) lives with his wastrel father (Tim Jandreau) and autistic sister (Lilly Jandreau) in a fluctuating state of destitution. He used to plough his trade on the rodeo circuit before an accident left him with brain damage and suffering from seizures. The once rising star has been reduced to eking-out a living breaking in horses and doing menial jobs. Whilst his father gambles or drinks away any money they have. Brady is determined to get back in the game regardless of the consequences.
The Rider is an accomplished and powerful piece of contemporary American film-making. Zhao takes us into a world of young men desperate to escape poverty. They find a purpose in life through adrenaline-fuelled danger. The unlimited promise and freedoms of the rolling hills are brought to life by Joshua James Richards’ beautiful cinematography. However, it’s Brady Jandreau’s incredible breakout performance which makes The Rider such compelling cinema. He’s phenomenal. His face goes through whole gamut of emotions.
The Rider is released on Blu-ray, DVD and VoD by Altitude Films on 7 January.