George Blackledge is what you might call a stalwart and stoic man. As a retired sheriff, he’s seen quite a bit. And he knows the value of his family and the small Montana ranch they live on. George’s wife, Margaret, is every bit as hard working and grateful as he. She’s also a determined sort: a woman who doesn’t back down, a fighter who won’t be intimidated.
George loves that about her … most of the time. In spite of the times when she gets a little too bullheaded, though, this couple still works well together. They have done so for many years now. And even in their grief, they work like a sun-weathered hand in a rough leather glove.
And grief has come their way.
Their beloved son, James, died just a few years back when he was bucked off his horse and hit his head on a riverbed rock. George and Margaret wept, they mourned, they hurt to this day. But they carry on. There’s still the ranch to care for. And James’ widow, Lorna. And, of course, their grandson Jimmy, who’s now nearly 4.
When Lorna remarries a man named Donnie Weboy, Margaret and George are patient and giving. They don’t like the guy much, and they hate the idea of Lorna and Jimmy moving into town. But they carry on, quietly doing their best.
However, when Margaret just happens to be in town and catches sight of that Weboy man slapping her grandson and abusing her former daughter-in-law, she’s stirred in unquiet ways. And days later, when she discovers that Donnie Weboy took Lorna and Jimmy off to his family somewhere in North Dakota—without a single word to their family here—Margaret Blackledge is no longer sitting quiet or still.
The three of them disappearing, and that boy being abused, she will … not … have … it!
“And you’re going with me or without me?” George asks his wife after spotting her bags and the car packed for the trip.
“That’s your choice,” Margaret firmly replies.
But, of course, there is no choice in the matter. Margaret had already packed his things, including his service revolver, and she knows that her force of will always prevails.
George goes about the last-minute lock-down-the-ranch details in his taciturn way. But he isn’t so sure that their choice is a sound one this time. Deep down, he’s wondering what pieces he’ll have to clean up when hostilities inevitably break out somewhere in North Dakota.
The Blackledges head out to protect or possibly save Lorna and little Jimmy from what Margaret is convinced is an abusive situation. (If nothing else, George hopes to give his wife a chance to say goodbye.) When they finally track down the Weboy clan, they realize that the situation is even more dangerous than they thought.
As tensions escalate, George and Margaret both put themselves on the line to protect their loved one (though their choices aren’t always as wise as they should be).
George talks about his father, a radio preacher who used to “thump his Bible.” George also laments the fact that it “wasn’t just the Bible he thumped.”
After meeting the Weboys and being invited to dinner with them, Margaret and George are taunted by Blanche Weboy, the family matriarch. “Maybe you’re a Jew. Maybe you can’t eat porkchops,” she sneers.
Margaret and George embrace and kiss while out on the road together. “Best not start something you won’t finish,” George smilingly tells his wife when she nuzzles his neck.
This film actually throws more weight toward the pressing threat of deadly force than the actual deadliness itself.
That said, we do see several men shot with a revolver. One man is shot twice in the chest and left dying and bloodied, another is shot in the forehead, and two others at least wounded. A woman is apparently killed by a shotgun blast. A man has his hand held down and his fingers lopped off by a hatchet (the camera watches closely as the blow lands and we’re shown the bloody stubs). Another individual is knocked unconscious with a rifle stock blow to the face. A house is set on fire and burns to the ground with several people (alive and dead) still inside.
A woman and child are both grabbed and physically abused by a man. Margaret is backhanded by another woman and is nearly beaten and/or potential raped by several men before someone steps in. George is grabbed, thumped around and left with a large bloody gash on his forehead after being thrown into a dresser.
We see George (in flashback) picking up his dead son after his fatal accident. Lorna sports a black eye after being beaten by Donnie Weboy (off-camera). She’s pushed, tumbling, down a staircase.
Blanche Weboy talks of the many painful ways her extended family members have died over the years. A young Native American man talks of being taken by U.S. government officials who “beat the Indian” out of him. A horse is killed by a bullet to the brain.
Two misuses of Jesus name and one combination of “god” with “d–n.” We also hear several uses each of “h—” and “d–n.”
George buys a half pint of whiskey from a liquor store and takes several swigs. Blanche Weboy offers George and Margaret a drink with dinner and laughingly gulps back her booze when they refuse. She also smokes in several scenes.
A local policeman in the Weboys’ North Dakota town is definitely crooked and willing to overlook their family’s violent misdeeds.
George tries to reason with his wife several times, attempting to point out the dangers of their situation. But she refuses to listen.
Starring Diane Lane and Kevin Costner, Let Him Go flirts with its Western roots. It’s the story of an older, retired sheriff and his strong-willed wife riding in to save an innocent.
Along the way, though, it becomes something more than just a tale of black and white hats. This film canters into an open prairie pic ruminating about love, grief, and loss. And it tells us that sometimes in our fearful, sorrowful moments, we make hard-nosed, emotional choices that can cause even more loss in our lives. Sometimes life isn’t all heroes and bad guys. Sometimes existence can be a whole lot of pain, even when we’re trying to do our best for the ones we love.
That’s the kind of stuff that can stir up conversation over a cup of coffee, post movie. But its not as fun as, say, having the victorious good guy ridin’ off into a glowing sunset. And you definitely shouldn’t come in expecting any of that here.
Let Him Go has its gun blasts and bloodiness; it’s lonely sundowns and whisky swigs; and it has that ache you get in your gut when you care, but you can’t change the course of the bad things tumbleweeding your way.
This pic hurts a little. And you ought to know that before slipping into its cinematic saddle.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.