Let Him Go review: Diane Lane and Kevin Costner return to cinemas

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Diane Lane and Kevin Costner headline the incoming thriller Let Him Go – and here’s our review of the movie.

This one starts with ingredients that suggests it may be what happens when a British kitchen sink drama crosses a tale from the old American west.

In this case, we meet Margaret and George Blackledge – played by Diane Lane and Kevin Costner – a couple living on their Montana ranch who suddenly are having to cope with the death of their adult son. More than that, his widow – Lorna – then remarries, this time to Will Brittain’s Donnie Welboy. After some metaphorical and non-metaphorical kitchen sink pondering, Margaret witnesses Donnie hitting both Lorna and her grandson, and the following day they’re gone. Just like that.


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What’s happened? Well, that’s the first of Let Him Go’s mysteries, a film that slowly and smartly evolves from a potential examination of grief into an at-times incredibly tense thriller.

We thus follow Margaret and George as they begin a long journey to find their grandson and bring him home, soaking in incredible scenery as they make their way slowly across America. Beautifully photographed when it’s outside and set in an era where a mobile phone is removed from its armoury, there’s a real sense of a couple venturing into the geographic and psychological unknown.

It’s worn superbly on the faces of Lane and Costner too.

Costner, playing a retired sheriff, is in his element with his sparse dialogue allowed him to gruff out words and shoot things down with a long, hard stare. Lane, meanwhile, is terrific. It’s incredibly refreshing to see a leading role for a female actor the other side of 50, and she’s testament to just what you get when you put her on screen in a movie of this ilk.

I don’t make a secret of the fact that I’m a huge Costner fan, but it’s Diane Lane’s performance that’s the anchor of the film. She’s quite brilliant.

The broader film itself is rooted in the feel of a western – it’s certainly not hard to see the appeal of the movie to Costner, certainly (even though he’s denied that the film is a western to him) – with writer/director Thomas Bezucha adapting the book by Larry Watson.

Bezucha – previously a director of more family-friendly fare such as Monte Carlo and the Family Stone – has the confidence to take his time here, and it’s very much a slow burn. Margaret and George become the outsiders in an unknown place, and the screws are gradually turned on them. This all pays off with an excruciatingly tense dinner table scene that takes place way before the end of the film, where it’s an exercise as much in what characters don’t say as much as what they do.

It’s when Let Me Go is floating between western and thriller that I found it at its absolute strongest. The screenplay has no intention of explaining everything, and Bezucha has trust in his actors, with the ensemble also including the scene-grabbing Lesley Manville, Jeffrey Donovan’s uneasy Bill Weboy and Kayli Carter’s completely believable Lorna. I hugely enjoyed looking at it, I hugely enjoyed watching it.

Where it stumbles is when it goes a little more singular in the kind of film it wants to be. As it heads to its final act, it never drops below enjoyable. Still, it left me feeling as though I’d read a really gripping novel that’s been a pleasure to curl up with, and then slightly disappointed by the more conventional wrap up it offered. But still very much glad I’d read it.

Much like last year’s The Good Liar too – and Let Him Go is the superior film – it just felt so unusually refreshing and different to have a film of this ilk in the hands of such a senior cast. Given the quiet restraint in the lead two performances in particular, I’d encourage more studios to put their faith in a film like this. I found it never less than absorbing.

Let Him Go is released in the UK on December 18th.

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