Based on the novel by Larry Watson, “Let Him Go” tells the story of a retired sheriff (Kevin Costner) and his wife (Diane Lane) who are willing to do whatever it takes to rescue their young grandson from an abusive new stepfather (Will Brittain) and his family several states away. Set in the early ’60s, writer-director Thomas Bezucha delivers a contemporary Western that drifts along in slow-burn mode as it heads towards a thrilling climax.
In the 1992 Oscar-winning film “Unforgiven,” we saw Clint Eastwood play a retired outlaw who had one fight left in him. Sure, his primary motivation was reward money, but as the film progressed, justice became his character William Munny’s driving force. There’s a slight parallel here to Kevin Costner’s George Blackledge — a retired lawman who shouldn’t be out chasing bad people at this stage of his life. But something more valuable than money draws him into the perilous situation, his family. Then there’s George’s headstrong wife, Margaret (Diane Lane), who’s going on the rescue mission with or without him.
As the film begins in 1963 Montana, all is well for the Blackledge family. George and Margaret share their ranch home with son, James (Ryan Bruce), and his family, wife, Lorna (Kayli Carter), and their infant son, Jimmy.
James is killed in a freak horse-riding accident, and the story quickly moves forward three years as Lorna marries Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain), and the couple, along with Jimmy, moves into a small apartment in town. One day while buying groceries, Margaret witnesses Donnie strike Jimmy as the family enjoys ice cream while out on a stroll. He then strikes Lorna when she tries to intercede. Margaret decides to stop by the apartment to make a welfare check only to discover the family suddenly packed up and left to stay with Donnie’s family in North Dakota.
There is a lot of testosterone in “Let Him Go,” but make no mistake, the film is guided by a mother’s love for her children. There’s a reason Lane has top billing over Costner. Margaret is calling the shots, doing the convincing, and taking the lead in a mission to get her grandson back even though the situation is complicated, as clearly explained by George before undertaking the endeavor, “Margaret, Jimmy is her boy” to which she replies, “He’s your grandson!” George figures that Margaret is going with or without him, so into the station wagon they go and it’s off to North Dakota.
The Weboys are a nasty bunch. Their reputation spreads across state lines as George and Margaret soon discover. Led by hard-nosed matriarch Blanche Weboy (Lesley Manville), the family’s weakest link is Lorna’s cowardly husband, Donnie. Jeffrey Donovan plays wolf in sheep’s clothing Bill Weboy while Adam Stafford and Connor MacKay play ogreish sons Marvin and Elton Weboy.
Manville chews up the scenery as the big bad mamma who meets her match in Lane’s Margaret. The tension is through the roof as both families sit together at the Weboy ranch house. “My boy doesn’t have to answer to you,” Blanche explains while puffing on a cigarette after Margaret accuses him of abuse. After an icy stare, Margaret calmly states, “And we don’t have to answer to you.” This leads to a climax that shifts the entire tone of the film as Costner steps out of the shadows and in the spirit of William Munny, takes the lead.