After a tragic riding accident, young cowboy Brady (Brady Jandreau), once a rising star of the rodeo circuit, is warned that his competition days are over. Back home, Brady finds himself wondering what he has to live for when he can no longer do what gives him a sense of purpose: to ride and compete. In an attempt to regain control of his fate, Brady undertakes a search for new identity and tries to redefine his idea of what it means to be a man in the heartland of AmericaChloé Zhao breathes fresh life into the modern western with a mesmerising cowboy story.
This beautiful, contemplative docudrama empathetically examines the psychological and physical impact on a cowboy of no longer being able to do what he was born to do. With it, Chinese director Chloé Zhao has breathed new life into the modern western.
Set in the American heartlands against the awe-inspiring landscape of South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, it follows cowboy 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, to watch videos of their glory days in the ring.
All of this 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.
Joseph Walsh, Time Out
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