Screened as part of NZIFF 2018
“The Rider, a marvellous film by Chloé Zhao, tells the story of rodeo horseman Brady Blackburn, who, after suffering a near-fatal head injury after being stepped on by a bucking bronco, must find his place within a world where the phrase ‘ride or die’ takes on real, high-stakes meaning.
Blackburn is played by Brady Jandreau, a real-life bronc rider who sustained similar injuries. After Zhao met him while researching another film [Songs My Brothers Taught Me, NZIFF16], she decided to create a movie around him, lightly fictionalizing his story and casting other non-professionals – including Brady’s father and sister – in supporting roles. Filmed with widescreen grandeur on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, The Rider reinvigorates tropes from the western genre of men, horses, honor codes and vast expanses of nature with a refreshing lack of sentimentality, without sacrificing their inherent lyricism and poetry...
This rigorous, compassionate film possesses instinct and sensitivity worthy of Jandreau, who has a fabulous face for the screen, projecting natural charisma despite an almost wordless reticence. There are excruciating moments in The Rider and some exquisite ones, too – of recklessness and resilience, and rituals of communion between Jandreau and his human and animal companions that take on the liminal beauty of prayer. Zhao is a filmmaker of extraordinary tact and insight: She has taken a story that could have been unremarkable or too romanticized and made it into something honest, magnificent and lasting.” — Anne Hornaday, Washington Post