‘Let Him Go’ Review: A Smart and Emotional Drama that is One of the Best Films of the Year

Opening in theaters on November 6th is the new drama, Let Him Go, which is based on the book of the same name by Larry Watson. Written and directed by Thomas Bezucha (The Family Stone), the film stars Academy Award-winner Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves) and Academy Award-nominee Diane Lane (Unfaithful) as grandparents desperate to gain back custody of their late son’s boy, after his mother remarries into a criminal family led by an evil matriarch, played brilliantly by Academy Award-nominee Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread). The result is a dramatic powerhouse of a modern western, with an emotional and captivating revenge storyline, and Oscar-worthy performances from its three lead actors. 

Set in Montana in the late 1950s, Let Him Go begins by introducing us to George Blackledge (Costner), a retired sheriff, and his wife Margaret (Lane). Their only child, James (Ryan Bruce), is married to Lorna (Kayli Carter), who has just given birth to a son. Not long after, James is killed in an accident, and a few years later, Lorna remarries a mysterious man named Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain). The trouble begins when Margaret witnesses Donnie abusing Lorna and her son, and then the three suddenly disappear from the town. Following a rumor that Donnie moved Lorna and the boy back to his hometown in Wyoming to be closer to his own family, the Blackledge’s journey to make sure their grandson is safe. 

However, upon arrival, they realize that the Weboys are a local crime family, including the eldest, Bill Weboy (Jeffrey Donovan), and their mother, Blanche Weboy (Manville), who is the leader of the criminal operation that controls the town. The conflict between the Blackledges and the Weboys quickly escalates when Blanche makes it difficult for George and Margaret to see their grandson, and then announces that he is now a Weboy. Fearful for their grandson’s future, and their son’s widow’s safety, along with the help of a local loner living on the outskirts of town named Peter Dragswolf (Booboo Stewart), George and Margaret set out to rescue their grandson, no matter what it takes. 

As a family drama, a modern western, and a revenge flick, Let Him Go works on all levels and is a completely satisfying and entertaining film. After directing comedies like The Family Stone and Monte Carlo, Thomas Belukha really amps up his game with Let Him Go and delivers a smart and emotional drama that is one of the best films of the year. The script is paced really well and allows for building the drama up to where the tension almost explodes when the two families finally meet. Belukha’s direction has also expanded since his previous work, with wonderful scope and tone, and a great focus on the actor’s performances. 

The supporting cast is strong, with impressive performances from Booboo Stewart (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse), Kayli Carter (Bad Education), and especially Jeffrey Donovan (Burn Notice), who is always great. But the film really belongs to its three leads, who all deserve Oscar consideration. Kevin Costner is the emotional anchor of the film and gives one of his best performances in recent years. The iconic actor, who doesn’t seem to get as much credit as he deserves for his stellar resume, is perfectly cast in the role of the stoic former sheriff and brings gravitas to the film. Costner also has strong chemistry with Lane and brings great balance to her passionate character. 

For her part, Lane is the heart of the movie, giving one of the best performances of her entire career playing a completely broken yet resilient character. As Margaret, Lane portrays the character’s quiet vulnerability, while also capturing the inner strength of a grieving mother trying to protect her only grandchild. But the breakthrough performance of the movie belongs to English actress Lesley Manville, who is absolutely electrifying and equally terrifying as the matriarch of the Weboy family. The actress is larger-than-life in the role, balancing cunning intimidation with outright violence and creating a character that is three-dimensional and not just a “mustache-twirling” villain. Manville delivers a career-making performance, and should definitely be in this year’s Oscar race, along with Lane. 

Finally, it’s worth noting for DCEU fans that Costner and Lane have played a married couple previously on screen, as John and Martha Kent, respectively, in Man of Steel. So, it might be fun for comic book fans, on a second viewing only, to imagine Let Him Go as an “Elseworlds Superman” story, where Clark is taken by the Luthors from Smallville in the late 50s, and the Kents have to fight to get him back. Hopefully, that idea will interest some viewers who otherwise might not see the film, to give it a chance, and trust me, you won’t be disappointed. 

In the end, no matter why you end up watching Let Him Go, you’ll discover that it is a fantastic piece of filmmaking with a smart script, beautiful direction, and Oscar-worthy performances from Lane, Manville, and Costner. 

Jami Philbrick’s rating is a 9.5 out of 10

Written by
A graduate of Emerson College, Jami Philbrick has worked in the entertainment industry for over 20 years, and most recently was a Senior Staff Reporter and Video Producer for Mtime, China's largest entertainment website. Before that, Philbrick was the Managing Editor of Relativity Media's iamROGUE.com for 4 years and has written for a variety of magazines and online publications including Wizard Magazine, Nerdist.com, and Collider.com. Philbrick has also been a contributor on Fox News, News 12 Westchester, AMC Movie Talk, and the PBS movie review series, Just Seen It. Philbrick was the 2019 recipient of the International Media Award at the 56th annual ICG Publicists Awards, and has interviewed such impressive talent as Tom Cruise, George Clooney, Bill Murray, Al Pacino, Oprah Winfrey, Bruce Willis, Mark Hamill, Spike Lee, Frances Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Stan Lee, and Kermit the Frog.

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