The Rider is based on real people and events, with a cast of players who never appeared in a movie before. Director Chloé Zhao was ready to sign a rodeo star to appear in her next film.
He had fallen off his steed in a rodeo performance and was badly injured. He was unable to meet her needs for the movie. Zhao changed her view and decided to base her film on his story. She engaged rodeo people, in a Native American community in South Dakota, to play the parts. The injured rider and his family and close friends play themselves in their first ever screen appearance.
As The Rider starts, we find a young member of the community, a rodeo champion rider, Brady Blackburn, recovering from a devastating head injury. He was thrown from his horse in the rodeo and he has been told by doctors that he should never ride a bronco again. Any mishap would have dire consequences. That is the true story about Brady Jandreau who plays the role of Brady Blackburn.
Brady is in a terrible state of despair. Horse riding and training are all he knows and he knows them as an expert. He can’t envision any other way of life, although he does take a job in a supermarket to pay his bills. Brady has never had a job other than working with horses.
Brady is popular among his friends and has one very close pal whom he visits in the hospital frequently. That is Lane Scott, a cowboy who was severely injured in an auto accident. Lane Scott is played by the real person in the film. He is completely disabled, including the inability to speak. He signals with a shaking hand to spell out his thoughts. Brady helps Lane do some physical therapy.
Brady is also attached to his widowed father, Wayne Blackburn. Brady has a problem with his father because Dad is very macho and unforgiving for Brady’s disability. Brady is very close and loving to his autistic younger sister, Lilly.
So, we see that Brady is surrounded by family and friends who love him, respect him and try to boost his spirits. He can’t accept the fact that his rodeo days are over. He goes back to work training horses, but he can’t quell the pain from his inability to ride again.
The three family members are played by actual son, father and daughter -- Brady, Tim and Lilly Jandreau. Their performances are flawless and moving. We get to care more and more about Brady’s fate, especially as he makes moves to get back to the rodeo life.
The film often shuns spoken dialog for close-up views of the characters, thus showing their feelings more powerfully than words can express. Even the horses have close-ups of their faces and eyes that reveal their reactions to Brady’s situation.
Brady’s work training unbroken horses is interesting and exciting. The cinematography showing the vast, picturesque landscape in South Dakota is an added plus for The Rider.
The Rider is a cinema experience that will grab your feeling about this cowboy and the others, and the feeling will increase after you leave the theater, as you think about it.
The Rider is at Harkins Sedona 6 theater.