The Rider Review - Stunning; A Heartfelt Story of Loss and New Beginnings

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The Rider, from Sony Pictures Classic, presents the story of a rising rodeo star on the South Dakota circuit facing a career breakdown after an injury leaves him facing life on the opposite side of the ring.

Written and directed by Chloe Zhao, The Rider stars family members Brady Jandreau, Tim Jandreau and Lilly Jandreau, along with Lane Scott and Cat Clifford.

The Rider opens with a close up of a head injury on Brady Blackburn, played by Brady Jandreau, who is just waking and is presumably just released from the hospital as the bandages are new with drops of blood and the stitches are fresh.

The tough guy, Brady, begins to take the bandages off which is when the audiences sees the steel plate stitched into his skull.

We meet Brady’s family, Wayne Blackburn, played by real life father, Tim Jandreau, and sister Lilly Blackburn, played by real life sister Lilly Jandreau, who has mild learning disabilities.


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A rodeo family whose lives center on riding, and breaking in horses, The Blackburn’s live on the opposite side of the pipeline. Brady we find out has limited formal education, no GED, is and is an expert at the one thing he can never do again.

Soon we learn he was a rising star in the rodeo circuit riding wild horses and his best friend, Lane Scott, who he often refers to as closer than a brother, rode bulls. No one was better, at 15 Lane was taking purses from older more experienced riders, and making a name for himself. Fearless, they both were hotshots and with good-natured, teenage, arrogance.

When we meet Lane, the first thought. of course, is a bull kicked him out, leaving him with a serious brain injury and then we learn it was a car accident that stole his dreams.

Brady, as we find out was kicked by a horse and left with life threatening injuries which meant an instant career adjustment. No more rodeo; the violence of eight jarring seconds riding a wild animal, and thrown to the ground, is equal to the concussion levels in the National Football league.

As they face hard financial times, Brady, who is recognizably famous on the Rodeo Circuit, takes a job stocking shelves at a local grocery store. Unable to turn his back on his passion, he is offered a gig breaking in some ponies, which is where the audience sees his skill.

The pivotal point in the film comes as Brady realizes no matter how tough he believes he is, his body can not take the shock. Already suffering a relapse, without immediate adjustments he might as well commit suicide.

Throughout the film the beauty of South Dakota, with wide open horizons and undeveloped land, the Prairie, badlands, rolling clouds and big sky is hypnotizing. The horses are stunning creatures, majestic, beautiful and willful.

There are moments in this film that I would ventured to say have never been experienced in film watching.

The Rider is capturing audiences with the heartfelt story and the breathtaking cinematography. The novice actors bring a genuine sense of realism to their roles, with Lane Scott and Lilly Jandreau each with challenges that are not hidden.

The Rider highlights life’s truths, in South Dakota, on the opposite of the pipeline construction which boomed during the recession and even now creating wealth for some and for others, the bleak financial times still abound, despite recent boosts.

The Rider has been nominated for four Spirit Awards including: Best Feature, Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Editing. Director/Writer Chloé Zhao also won The Bonnie Award.


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Catching the festival fire The Rider has recently screened at as an Official Selection at Sundance Film Festival 2018, and over the past year at Cannes Int’l Film Festival 2017, Directors’ Fortnight, Best Picture; Telluride Film Festival 2017,Toronto Int’l Film Festival 2017 and the New York Film Festival 2017.

One of those rare stories, The Rider doesn’t have a neat happy ending just new beginnings. Leaving one wondering when the dreams, the passion, is snatched in some hateful twist of fate, is there something, a silver lining, somewhere, just waiting around the next bend in the road?

The Rider opens in theaters April, 2018. See it.

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