Broken Dreams Growing Strong in ‘The Rider’

by Christian Ramos on May 31, 2018

in Print Reviews,Reviews

 [Rating: Swiss Fist] 

There are many films out that to me are more pleasing to the eye than the actual thought process that I absorb watching them. The artsy kind of movies that have a message buried so deep into the film, it takes multiple viewings to finally “get it” the “point” of the movie.

The Rider directed by Chloe Zhao, is one of those films. It is visually a striking piece of art and very well executed, but  something is missing from this already melancholic and soulful film.

The Rider is about Brady Blackburn (Brady Jandreau) who before the events of this film was in some sort of horse riding accident that he is still recovering from. His hand cripples when he leasts expects it. The adoring fans on his South Dakota reservation, still look forward to the day Brady can return to riding at last. He spends his days working a menial stocking job at the local grocery store, caring for his autistic sister Lilly (Lilly Jandreau) and visiting his friend Lane (Lane Scott), a young man who has been left paralyzed and unable to speak after an incident on his own. It’s a somber life Brady leads but deep down he knows that people are looking to him to fulfill his dreams once more and ride on.

If there’s something I found beautiful about this film, it was the way Brady interacts with the horses he used to ride. He has such care and compassion for them that his broken dreams never once stop him from at least caring for his old friends. Zaho picked the right actor for this part. In fact, seeing the credits roll and learning most of the characters were simply named after their actor counterparts, I went searching to discover that in fact, many of these people are not professional actors, having The Rider as really, their only acting experience. It is the idea that Zaho could find these people in South Dakota and work them so well into this film that I appreciated. The idea they know each other and have been around each other their whole lives, adds considerable depth to Brady’s life and what others see in him.

I cannot forget to talk about the cinematography of this film, which is so gosh darn pretty, I’m surprised there was not an Oscar nomination that came from this. Cinematographer James Joshua Richards’ look into this reservation is key to the success this picture offers. We get a sense of the vast landscape where people still use horses to travel short distances. He creeps in to the impoverished people of the reservation, yet always (and with Zaho’s help) reminding audiences that these characters make their own wealth in family and friendship. There is one scene in particular I loved, involving Brady visiting Lane and helping him onto a saddle in the hospice care, making him feel like he’s back to where he belongs. Without words, Lane simple smiles at his old friend, letting him know that anything is possible.

The Rider is a lovely film. I think it was hard for me to appreciate it just in one sitting, but thinking about it a few days after the initial watch, it stuck with me. It is not a film for everyone, but it is a film that makes sure that its central idea of not giving up dreams even through personal struggle comes through.

Christian Ramos is a recent graduate of KU with a B.A. in Film & Media Studies. When he’s not watching movies, he likes to brag about the pointless Oscar trivia he knows, remembers that time he dressed as Steven Spielberg for Halloween and shows off his tweet that Julianne Moore liked.

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