The Rider is the newest film from writer/director Chloé Zhao (Songs My Brothers Taught Me). It debuted at the 2017 Cannes Directors' Fortnight and has toured the festival circuit, picking up various awards along the way, including 5 Spirit Award nominations before finally making its way into theaters this spring. The film follows a cowboy who faces an identity crisis after he is seriously injured during a rodeo performance.
The way in which this story was written is enormously impressive. Zhao wrote the story based on the experiences of the lead actor and his family, who play versions of themselves in the film. While using non-actors can often be a fatal decision in filmmaking, I thought that it worked extremely well in this film. The characters being played by people who really had these experience lended a sense of authenticity to the film. It also helps that the script is extremely realistic. The actors didn't really have to do much to bring realism to their dialogue because the dialogue already felt real. The same goes for emotional reactions. Going in to the film, I knew that the lead actor was a first-timer and that the story was inspired by him. I was thoroughly impressed by his performance. He did an absolutely phenomenal job. I didn't realize until after watching the film that the rest of the supporting cast was comprised of his friends and family too. I was blown away with what they were able to pull off.
I found that the story of the film was extremely effective. It is a character-driven tale focusing on an internal crisis. I found the conflict to be extremely relatable. The characters were highly sympathetic, too. The protagonist was great, but that can be expected because he was based on a real person that plays him. The supporting characters are all used to build some aspect of the protagonist and contribute to another area of the resolution of his identity crisis. Part of what impressed me so much with this was that the film never felt slow to me. The pacing is not rapid, but I was always involved with the story and characters. I also thought that the film was phenomenally-made. There are a lot of metaphors used in the story, and these were often evaluated using elements such as the cinematography and location. I was also very impressed by how well the animal handling was done in the film.
I have to say, The Rider is what American independent films need to be. It has a wonderful story with great characters derived from the story of the ensemble of actors. It has the potential to appeal to a wider audience than most films like this do, but still has the intelligence and elegance for which they are known. I highly recommend that you check out this film if you get the chance.
The Rider is now playing in select theaters nationwide. An expansion is ongoing.
Big Tuna's Rating: A
How Did I Watch It?: A press screener.
Had I Seen It Before?: No.
Would I Watch It Again?: Yes.
My new reviews are being posted on POPAXIOM (popaxiom.com)!
I look at films as if through old red and blue 3D glasses— one lens is as art, one lens is as entertainment.
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