Indie director Chloé Zhao breathes fresh life into the modern Western with a mesmerizing cowboy story.
A cowboy can no longer do what he was born to do. With The Rider—a beautiful, contemplative docudrama—director Chloé Zhao empathetically examines the psychological and physical impact of that setback, breathing new life into a genre that's far from exhausted.
Set in the American heartlands against the awe-inspiring landscape of South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, the film follows Brady Blackburn (real-life horseman Brady Jandreau) whose life and purpose are thrown into question when he’s tossed from his bronco during a rodeo. Following a three-day coma, Brady wakes up to find a metal plate in his skull and the news that he can never ride in the rodeo again.
Zhao has based the story on Jandreau’s life, employing a deft and delicate touch that never exploits the true-life events for crass dramatic effect. Watching Brady sit around the campfire with his pals, musing on what his life will look like as a cowboy who can’t compete, we feel his anguish. We are enraged when his gambling-addict father (Brady’s real dad, Tim Jandreau) tells him to “cowboy up” about the situation. And we feel the loss in scenes where Brady visits his pal, former bucking-bull rider Lane Scott, who’s in permanent rehabilitation following an accident. They watch videos of their glory days in the ring.
All of it results in a dignified portrait of a young man searching for new meaning in his life, told with rare honesty. The full effect is nothing short of magnificent.
Cast and crew