The Rider Screen 17 articles

The Rider


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  • As Brady stews, Zhao opens the film to other members of Brady’s community who have reckoned with their physical and mental limits, thoughtfully probing the connection between identity, or the soul, and the body. In one of the film’s best scenes, Brady trains a bucking horse, calming its fits with gentle touches, quiet attention, and trust. The Rider skillfully follows suit, accompanying its characters with patience as they acclimate to unanticipated ways of being.

  • With tactful and empathic grace, the director observes the bovine elegance of rodeo culture without ever putting her own judgment between the camera and her subjects. The result is a solemn and caring portrait of wounded cowboys no longer able to hide their emotions behind muscular perfection, painfully and anti-heroically dealing with their fragility.

  • For all the film’s beauty, it’s Brady, one of the most subtly intriguing characters of the year, and his relationships, particularly with his father and sister, that makes this one of the most unassumingly vital films of 2017.

  • I must be honest: McCarthy’s nostalgic celebration of a “strong sense of identity and values” makes me a little uneasy. Rather, what sparked my own personal resonance with the film was something different: the way Zhao dramatizes the quiet and relentless pressures of masculinity and its norms in Brady’s everyday life. What is palpable in The Rider is the presence of a restrictive view of what a man is or does.

  • Foregrounding the quasi-religious connection that the cowboys share with their environment... Zhao elevates The Rider beyond the ethnographic to something cosmic. Framed against Joshua James Richards’s grand, sunset-soaked vistas of the prairie, Brady’s struggle becomes, like many cinematic renditions of the American West before it, the struggle of a people and their way of life in a rapidly changing world.

  • The tension existing between two identities that throughout history have existed in absolute opposition of each other is fascinating, and it was one of Zhao’s stated reasons for making this film. But her devotion to an immediate social realism becomes something of a stumbling block to examining a region within a broader cultural context.

  • The film is like The Misfits (John Huston, 1961) as re-imagined by Claire Denis, an archetypal story about the knotty tangle of work, masculinity, identity, and the natural world, told in a subjective and sympathetic formal style. Clark Gable’s weathered and wandering horse trader Gay Langland haunts this film, with his mantra, “It’s better than wages, ain’t it?” finding a new resonance in the 21st century.

  • Reviewing Zhao’s first feature, “Songs My Brother Taught Me,” I said her poetic way with landscapes and inward narratives reminded me of Terrence Malick, and while that comparison still holds, this new film is a quantum leap beyond the earlier one. Its visual lyricism is perfectly controlled and cumulatively ravishing. “The Rider,” in short, is the kind of dazzling surprise I’ve been able to count on as a regular occurrence in my 38 years covering the NYFF.

  • Filled with magic-hour widescreen vistas, The Rider neither romanticizes the economically perilous, physically dangerous profession of its protagonist nor condemns it, honoring instead Brady’s own complicated attachment to a calling that may kill him.

  • No movie brought as much emotional urgency to the idea of a profound interspecies connection as Chloé Zhao’s The Rider. This heartbroken drama set amid rural South Dakota’s bronco-riding culture casts nonprofessionals as versions of themselves... In a handful of scenes that become the centerpiece of the film, Zhao gives us an intimate, patiently observed account of a horse trainer’s hard work, demystifying a process that will soon reveal more transcendent dimensions.

  • It's a film where every actor hums with character and poignancy, a history behind each appearance and a settled weight in the world. And among them also struggles Brady, suffuse in the loneliness of pride. This is a fine film indeed, as free in its saddled legacy, riding with sincerity and simplicity, as Woo's Manhunt is with its tongue-in-cheek reflexivity leavened by the director's stalwart earnestness.

  • It’s unfortunate that Zhao feels the need to underline things in a sequence near the end of the film where Brady must put down an injured horse he has trained, having her normally stoic character articulate his thoughts (and the film’s theme) a tad too precisely—it’s patently unnecessary when these ideas have already been communicated in a more natural and delicate way, and unworthy of the rest of Zhao’s beautiful, intelligent, and sensitive feature.

  • Working with non-professionals whose lives blur with their characters, Zhao’s film scores high on realism... The only elements letting the film down are an overly explanatory script that makes Brady’s central dilemma (to cowboy up and ride through the pain or give up on his dreams) too bald, and the occasional lyrical music that over-pounds the film’s mournful tone. Nevertheless, it’s a remarkable achievement from both Zhao and all her actors.

  • This realistic, collaborative style allows Zhao camera to move freely around the characters and create an incredibly absorbing sense of place with breathtaking images, whether in the harsh light of the midday sun, the soft haze of the morning or the warm tones of the magic hour. Heavy-hearted cowboys, wild horses and broken dreams: The Rider is a great film about what it means to be a man.

  • If The Florida Project gave Cannes audiences a bracing dose of lower-depths claustrophobia and sensory overload, Directors’ Fortnight audiences could find an achingly beautiful counterweight in the wide-open plains and long, enveloping silences of “The Rider.” Gorgeously directed by Chloé Zhao with the same assured command of documentary and narrative techniques she showed in her 2015 debut, “Songs My Brothers Taught Me,” this is a lovely, lyrical ode to South Dakota rodeo culture.

  • Zhao achieves a lovely balance between unflinching realism and the hauntingly lyrical... Much of The Rider has been shot at magic hour, and it’s hard not to be overcome by the splendor of the landscape. Movies that blend real life and fiction usually foreground the docu-style realism, using the poetry as grace notes or punctuation. Zhao privileges both, and in so doing creates a work of heartbreaking beauty.

  • A stunningly-shot film, its crisp imagery and livid sound design in natural harmony with piece and its South Dakota settings. On a purely narrative level, Zhao’s story may strain as it edges down familiar routes, but its emotional connections pulsate throughout

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