The Rider

The Rider ★★★★

Essentially a much better, more authentic version of The Wrestler, but set in the west. The Westrler?

Oscillates a lot between being an effortless deconstruction of the toxic masculinity found in the western genre and an overlong film school thesis by a student who clearly loves Clint Eastwood a little too much - I was worried when the opening dream scene of the film is a direct rip-off of the opening of SULLY, a scene that already felt stale then. Zhao appears to be a populist at heart, yet one like Jeff Nichols in the sense that she cares deeply about the details in the process - whether it's training horses or price-checking cans on the shelf at a grocery store, everything reveals a different aspect of Brady. This film also gets a lot right without patting itself on the back; all of the characters with mental or physical disabilities feel three dimensional and they are never used as props for sympathy. Perhaps the father/son relationship could've been fleshed out a bit more, but as is, the final moments still feel earned.

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