The Rider ★★★★

Beautifully wrought, uncomplicated tale of a rodeo rider recuperating from a traumatic brain injury and learning to adjust to an uncertain future. Brought up to "ride through the pain," he begins to question who is if not a cowboy. Zhao has grown significantly from her first feature, offering a more direct narrative here, to great effect. Though some evidence of her documentary approach is evident here (especially in the spot-on casting), this is a movie that gets its hooks in you largely through its sincere treatment of its characters' faith, class, and family ties. Perhaps a bit affected in its delivery (need every shot be at magic hour?), yet deeply affecting all the same.