Genehouse Movie Review: “The Rider”

Genehouse Movie Review “The Rider”

“The Rider” is one of the most beautiful and moving films I have ever seen, uplifting, gorgeous (the canvas is the Badlands in South Dakota), haunting.

“After a riding accident leaves him unable to compete on the rodeo circuit, a young cowboy searches for a new purpose.” If you are adverse, to “rodeo circuit” or “cowboy,” you are robbing yourself of an unforgettable experience.

The kicker is the story is not only real, but the cowboy and his autistic teen sister and his ne’er do well father are all actual family members, filmed in their real house and ranch, with chunks of the film showing their actual daily lives. And it works to perfection. A fourth character is a quadriplegic boy also hurt in a horrific accident, also played by the actual guy. The fifth character is the stunning landscape itself, reminding me of the wonderful film, “Nebraska” where the sky was a character.

Brady, Lilly and Tim Jandreau play themselves. Brady is a horse whisperer, a term I thought was made-up. In fact, you will see Brady win over three horses in real time. Lilly, clearly autistic, improvises, and her monologues (you’ll never forget her rant on bras) are exquisite. Add to the mix the actual townspeople (again, like “Nebraska”) and the genius director, Chinese American Chloe Zhao, whose previous work, “Songs My Brothers Taught Me” is also filmed on an Indian reservation in the Badlands.

You will see some rodeo, minus the macho. You will see boys who believe that cowboy is a sacred calling. You will see a shockingly handicapped cowboy, Brady’s best friend, heroically work his way through therapy. You will see a rare father/son relationship, flawed and utterly full of love. And you will see aching sunrises and sunsets illuminated in the purple haze of the Badlands.

This is a film that families can watch together. This is a film free of politics and judgement. This is a film that will fill you with emotion, wonder and awe.

I hadn’t heard of “The Rider.” A new librarian at the Hayner Library mall site, a kid with a passion for films and who knows my tastes, handed me the DVD of “The Rider.” I asked why I would want to see a rodeo movie. He told me to just sit back and watch, that I would be caught up instantly. And I was.

“The Rider” is a splendid, immersive film, one of the best about relationships without a single false beat.  “If an animal around here gets hurt like I did, they get put down,” Brady says. “I was only kept alive because I’m human, and that’s not enough.”

Indeed. If you long for beauty and uplift, if Nature wrenches your soul, watch “The Rider.”

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