"Stylistically the film’s cinematography allows for much of the authenticity to come out, at the same time it remains fictitious and cinematic"
Director Chloé Zhao reconstructs a character study of the actual story of bronc rider Brady Jandreau.
Jandreau is a present-day cowboy, who’s struggling to assemble his life back together. That comprises of everyday routines, interwoven with social skills.
The film transmits an air of naivety but that which is not solely down to its ‘Prairie Americana’ type feel. I have learned that the scene where Jandreau breaks in a horse was carried out in real time. In this moment we not only see a connection between man and beast but also the audience.
Brady Jandreau radiates a sinewy air of stoicism, as he claims his arresting masculine presence in an authentic frontier set up. What an untenable, and stirring reimagining of the American West, The Rider turns out to be.
Shot amongst the real Sioux cowboys of South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation. Brady at his last rodeo has his head trampled on. He dices with death, and when advised not to ride again, for him, it is comparable with a slow, painful death.
In pursuit of Brady getting a handle on the new hand he has been dealt, he looks for another calling. Zhao grew up in Northern China, where she had no contact with classic film or arthouse cinema. But, after reading political science in London she went across to New York, and took classes in film. On impulse she flew out to South Dakota.
She comments that "art is a healing process," and South Dakota is her "cinematic universe." The Rider is a “narrative movie,” which includes real people, and stories which are true.
Tim Jandreau is the father of Brady; and the teen sister is played by someone with Aspergers syndrome.
Tim would apparently sit his son in the saddle at 15 months old, and then on full-grown horses, without assistance aged three and a half.
Lane Scott, who we see Brady visit in hospital is his best friend. Lane at one time was famous but is now paralysed and communicates using one hand.
Zhao knew about him prior to the shooting of The Rider, in fact, she had at first intended to centre her film around Lane. Then Brady received a three-inch slash to his skull by a bucking rodeo bronc. He went into a seizure, followed by a coma.
The doctor recommended he stop riding altogether, at the very least allow six months for the plates to mash together but, in preference he got right back in the saddle after two weeks.
Writer/ Director Chloé Zhao made Brady an actor; and he made her a cowgirl, Jandreau knew when he was meant to cry, and would conjure up his saddest memories, the result, a thoroughly deep, human film.
Stylistically the film’s cinematography allows for much of the authenticity to come out, at the same time it remains fictitious and cinematic. Questionably it is in the style of a vérité documentary.
Brady pays little attention to the camera, and manages to replay an incident in his mind that actually happened to him. You sense that Brady is sensitive by the way he interacts with the horses, as well as with his sister.
Brady ‘honours a way of life that is rapidly disappearing in Middle America.’ And he is one of the best horse trainers out there, displaying his connection and vulnerability.
There’s a ‘tough love’ between the father and son for a vast amount of the film, Tim is not in favour of Brady riding again, aware of the danger, and then there’s a moment where he asks him, “Why don’t you listen to me?” To which Brady replies, “I’ve been listening to you all these years. You’re the one who said be a cowboy and man up.”
The transient lifestyle of ‘the cowboy culture’ is caught beautifully in The Rider, whereupon poetry is poured across the screen.
At the end we are shown in slow-motion footage of an unspecified rider, and depending on what your interpretation is, the rider is Brady and Lane. In those few seconds we witness the kind of freedom you search for; one which is found in the spirit of riding.