*Orville Peck has entered the chat*
Release date: May 20, 2017
Director: Chloé Zhao
Who should watch this movie: Cowboys. Aspiring cowboys (of any gender). Folks who had never heard of Chloé Zhao until Nomadland got nominated for a Golden Globe.
When should you watch this movie: When you’re in a period of transition. When you’re forced to face difficult self-realizations. When you need an escape.
The sell: At the opening scene of The Rider, my jaw fell on the floor, and it stayed there for the entire length of the film. It’s obvious that Chloé Zhao understands something about the camera that eludes most auteurs, and she wields the lens with a grace that is at once impossibly intricate and divinely simple. In lieu of professional actors, Zhao employs amateurs playing versions of themselves. The result, which in different hands could have been clumsy or juvenile, is a level of authenticity rarely captured on film, either narrative or documentary. The emotions are raw, because the stakes are real. The people are real and have lived the experiences being reenacted in the diegesis. Omnipresent in the film’s expansive atmosphere are the seemingly antithetical emotions: Pride and vulnerability. Each apply both to the characters in their raucous yet fragile lives at the rodeo, and to the setting, rural South Dakota in decline. The through-line is an unspeakable, unimpeachable love, for the land, for the horses, for each other, and most importantly for the ride. Needless to say, I cried a lot while watching this movie, and I’m crying now writing about it.