Directed by Chloé Zhao
An injured rodeo cowboy searches for new purpose.
“How many stirring moments does it take to make a great movie?” asked Joe Morgenstern in The Wall Street Journal. “Whatever the number, The Rider has more than enough.” That’s partly because most of the characters in this “poetic, laconic, and ineffably beautiful” drama are real people playing slightly fictionalized versions of themselves. The story centers on Brady Jandreau, a South Dakota rodeo cowboy who is forced to give up riding—the thing he lives for—when a bucking bronco fractures his skull. Director Chloé Zhao “clearly understands that universal conflict between desire and reality,” said David Sims in The Atlantic. Brady, while coming to terms with his new life, suffers seizures, works menial jobs, and fights with his father. But the mood is never miserable. In one remarkable scene, he trains a neighbor’s wild horse, and we watch in real time as the hostile animal succumbs to his skillful coaxing. “The naturalism is incredible.” During such moments, The Rider “comes as close to a spiritual experience as anything I’ve encountered in a movie theater this year,” said Justin Chang in the Los Angeles Times. “Is Jandreau acting, or merely being? I’d suggest a third option somewhere in between, in that mysterious realm where art resides.”