“Let Him Go” works best whenever it focuses on the strong and loving relationship of its two lead characters. Right from when they appear at the beginning of the story, we instantly come to sense the long history between them, and it surely helps that they are played by two star movie performers who have not lost any of their talent and presence during last four decades.
The first act of the movie is set in a rural area of Montana in the 1960s. We are introduced to George and Margaret Blackledge (Kevin Costner and Daine Lane), and everything feels fine and well for this gentle middle-aged couple and several people they have deeply cared about. Their only son married not so long ago, and Margaret is willing to help her daughter-in-law Lorna (Kayli Carter) raising her little grandson in their cozy ranch house while George often works with his son outside.
However, this happy family life of theirs do not last long due to a tragic accident which kills George and Margaret’s son. While George and Margaret have tried to deal with their loss and grief since that tragic incident, Lorna comes to lean on some other guy in a nearby town, and it does not take much time for her to marry this guy and then move to his residence along with her son. Although they are not so pleased with this decision of hers, George and Margaret respect their daughter-in-law’s decision anyway with some perfunctory blessing on her second marriage.
Not long after Lorna left, Margaret happens to witness a very disturbing moment while she is in the town for grocery shopping. At first, she is delighted to spot Lorna and her grandson from the distance, but then she is unnerved to watch them abused by Lorna’s new husband. Quite concerned about Lorna and her grandson, Margaret decides to take some action later, but Lorna and her second husband are already gone along with their son when Margaret subsequently attempts to visit them.
It seems Lorna’s husband takes his wife and stepson back to his hometown in North Dakota, so Margaret soon prepares for searching for them in North Dakota, and that generates a little moment of conflict between Margaret and her husband. Although he has some reservation on whether she will succeed or not, George comes to accompany his wife because 1) As a former town sheriff, he is well aware of the possible dangers his wife may come across on the road and 2) he knows too well that he cannot possibly stop her when she is quite determined.
During the middle act, the movie takes a more leisurely tone as George and Margaret drive from one spot to another in the middle of their long journey across North Dakota. Fortunately for them, it does not take that long for them to find the whereabouts of Lorna and her son and second husband, and it seems that all they have to do is convincing Lorna to let them take their grandson back to Montana.
However, as George and Margaret get closer to the destination where Lorna has currently lived with her son and second husband, the mood gradually becomes tense and unnerving. It turns out that Lorna’s second husband brought his wife and stepson to his family ranch home located in the middle of some remote region, and it goes without saying that his family are not pleased to see two outsiders meddling with their family matter.
And these folks also turn out to be quite vicious to say the least. Blanche Weboy (Lesley Manville), the matriarch of this family who has apparently held a firm control over her sons including Lorna’s second husband, exudes loony menace and insidiousness right from when she meets Margaret and George for the first time, and George and Margaret come to behold what a toxic environment Blanche’s house is for Lorna and her son.
While George and Margaret try to save Lorna and his son from Blanche and her virulent family as much as possible, the screenplay by director/writer Thomas Bezucha, which is based on Larry Watson’s novel of the same name, continues to develop its plot with more genre elements including a Native American character who happens to befriend Margaret and George by coincidence. While cinematographer Guy Godfree’s camera often shows the gorgeous shots of mountains and plains, the restrained score by Michael Giacchino tentatively accompanies these starkly beautiful moments, and they surely make a striking contrast with brutal moments of violence later in the film.
Although the movie becomes less interesting as heading to its expected finale, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, who incidentally appeared together as a couple in “Man of Steel” (2013), still hold our attention as before, and they are simply effortless especially during a number of small intimate moments between their characters. On the opposite, Lesley Manville, who has been more prominent thanks to her stellar supporting turn in “Phantom Thread” (2017), forcefully chews every scene of hers as required by her very twisted character, and Will Brittain, Jeffrey Donovan, Kayli Carter, and Booboo Stewart are also well-cast in their respective supporting roles.
In conclusion, “Let Him Go” is a rather plain genre film on the whole, but it is supported well by not only Bezucha’s competent direction but also the enjoyable performances from Costner, Lane, and Manville. Yep, the story is quite familiar to the bone, but these good performers elevate their stock materials to some degree, and I appreciate that a lot.