At first Margaret and George Blackledge might be confused for Clark Kent’s parents. After all, they are played by Diane Lane and Kevin Costner, both looking comfortably weathered like a favorite sweater. Their rural Montana home would be a retro dream for an urban hipster wanting a little bit of country, but it turns out their timeless comfortable existence is actually taking place in the early 60s. We only see a short, idyllic moment with the happy Blackledges, sharing their home with their son, daughter in law, and baby grandson. The happiness is broken by tragedy when their son dies from a freak riding accident, the years blur, and their now ex-daughter-in-law Lorna (Kayli Carter) is getting remarried to one Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain). The Blackledges try to stay close to see their grandson whom they helped raise but are alarmed when they realize the Donnie is violent toward his new wife and the boy. Next thing you know, Donnie takes his new family and leaves town in the middle of the night.
Thus is the setup for Let Him Go. The Blackledges aren’t the first people to have a broken family, but then again Margaret Blackledge is not one to let that stop her. Already having lost her son, she refuses to lose her grandson as well. George knows she is stubborn, but still finds himself surprised to find the station wagon packed up, with Margaret set on finding the missing family somewhere between Montana and the North Dakota. Retired sheriff George, of course, goes along with her. But what are they going to do when they find them? Just take the kid?
On paper, Let Him Go is a traditional vengeance flick. But the cinematography of wintry, bleak plains combined with the sort of timelessness of a modern Western are surprisingly gorgeous. The chemistry of Costner and Lane as a couple is undeniable, as we saw in Man of Steel. In Let Him Go, they fit together like a worn in pair of old shoes. One of the tenderest moments between George and Margaret on screen, where they reminisce about her favorite horse, actually made me cry.
The final third, where the confrontation with the extended no-good Weboy family really gets rolling is where the story follows an expected path. British character actress Lesley Manville has a blast chewing scenery as Blanche, the Weboys’ scary and abusive matriarch, but the wolf pack of her and her brood of burly sons come across as one-note bad guys. I almost couldn’t help but thinking of what the movie would have been like if they never even found the kid…. It would have been a quiet, heartbreaking film. As it is, the moments of shocking violence are still tempered by Costner and Lane’s lovely, grounding performances, making this film worth checking out.