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New to Digital - LET HIM GO

let him go review
In 1960s North Dakota, a couple attempts to free their grandson from the clutches of a violent clan.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Thomas Bezucha

Starring: Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Lesley Manville, Jeffrey Donovan, Kayli Carter, Booboo Stewart, Will Brittain

let him go poster

The hottest screen pairing of 2020 comes not from some toned, youthful twenty-somethings but rather in the settled faces of the 65-year-old Kevin Costner and 55-year-old Diane Lane. As the married couple at the centre of writer/director Thomas Bezucha's adaptation of Larry Watson's novel Let Him Go, and in their third screen pairing, they fully convince as two people who have managed that rare feat of growing comfortable with each other while still being able to surprise one another. The heat generated between the two is so palpable that when Bezucha cuts away from the beginnings of a motel tryst, it doesn't feel like a tasteful act but rather one of cowardice, a missed opportunity to give us a rare scene of lovemaking between two aging protagonists.

let him go review

The bond between retired lawman George Blackledge (Costner) and his wife Margaret (Lane) is tested when the former arrives home to find his wife has filled their car with provisions for a road trip. Margaret wants to leave their Montana home to travel to North Dakota in search of their grandson, who following the death of their own son in a riding accident a couple of years prior, has ended up in the clutches of the Weboys, a notorious criminal clan led by domineering matriarch Blanche (Lesley Manville).


George and Margaret have been together long enough to know there are some questions you can't answer in the negative, and so George agrees. In its own quiet, cosy way (Margaret bakes a chocolate sponge cake for the trip), it's reminiscent of The Wild Bunch's famous "Let's go. Why not?" moment. The closer the Blackledges get to the Weboys, the more we realise it's probably going to require some bloodshed to extract their kin from Blanche's grasp.

let him go review

Known for light comedies like Christmas favourite The Family Stone and the 2011 Selena Gomez vehicle Monte Carlo, Bezucha seems an odd fit to bring such a rugged tale to the screen. But in a way it works, as he brings the same sort of naivete to the genre that Margaret brings to her poorly planned rescue mission. There are so many tender moments between the husband and wife that we almost forget we're watching what is essentially a 1960s set western. When the violence erupts in the final act it's all the more shocking, and the stakes have been raised by how much time we've spent in the company of George and Margaret.


While the central couple is fully realised by an economical but incisive script and two deceptively impressive performances, the Weboys feel like they belong in a different movie, especially given Manville's over-the-top but admittedly arresting portrayal of a rankled hillbilly Momma bear. But again, this dynamic works. The film takes two recognisably human people and plants them in the middle of a genre piece. We know what sort of movie George and Margaret have found themselves in, but we're never quite sure if they're as cognizant themselves of the looming threat posed by the Weboys.

let him go review

George and Margaret aren't entirely likeable however. There's an element of snobbish entitlement to how they decide their Grandson is better off in their care than that of his own mother and new stepfather. Of course, their assumption bears out, but when they behave so ignorantly towards Blanche in their initial meeting over a dinner of pork chops, we can't help but empathise a little with Blanche, who immediately twigs them for the middle class snobs they probably don't realise they've become. A more nuanced movie might have leaned into this idea, making the film a sort of maternal riff on The Searchers, but Bezucha leaves it unexplored to such a degree that you have to assume it's an element of his film he's not actually aware of. Still, as a straightforward tale of white hats and black hats, Let Him Go is a gripping modern western anchored by one of the most textured screen couplings of recent mainstream cinema.

Let Him Go is on UK/ROI Digital platforms now.