Chloé Zhao Shows Early Filmmaking Promise with “The Rider”

“Cowboys ride through the pain,” says one character in Chloé Zhao’s elegiac drama The Rider (B), the story of an injured young rodeo star coming to grips with the fact that he may never get to saddle up as a hero again. Cast “off the grid” with Lakota Sioux of the Pine Ridge Reservation in the Badlands of South Dakota, this wistful tale rests largely on the shoulders of amateur actors such as Brady Jandreau as the plaintive protagonist. Jandreau is charming and completely believable in a role built largely around his real life and comes to special life in tender moments with family and friends. Zhao’s methodical and observant style and a near-documentary effect lifts this sad, sweet character study into a mythical glimpse at American masculinity especially in struggling communities. She has crafted an exquisite and poetic film of deep emotion and grace.

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