The Rider ★★★★½

I was kind of intrigued by my local theater's decision to play this film. A random indie film I'd never heard of by a director who has directed two (or three?) films to her name? I had never seen any commercial for it nor praise of it. I was completely taken aback by this selection, down near the bottom of my theater's listings. It had great ratings here on the site, so I figured "Why not?"

Here's something interesting I learned after finishing it: the people in this film are real people. Most names are slightly changed, but the events that transpire, with the rodeos and the local fame, are practically mirror reflections of the people who play the parts. What happened to the main character actually happened to the actor who plays him. What happened to his "brother" actually happened to him. As I was seeing it I thought to myself, "Man, this dude really pulls off being heavily handicapped." Or maybe it's because he's actually handicapped, and the videos of him not handicapped while on the rodeo circuit are actual videos of him from the past. Holy shit.

Even more meta is that the main character's family, consisting of a father and mentally-handicapped sister, are actually his father and mentally-handicapped(?) sister. Every actor in this film has never acted in another major motion picture before (at least according to this site), and most of them kill it. Unbelievable. This movie is so packed with intricacy that the nonfiction behind the film is almost as interesting as the fiction within it.

As for the film itself, it was fantastic. I went into this with somewhat neutral expectations and the longer it went on the more I was intrigued by it. Packed with great amounts of symbolism, boiling tension, and a wholly relatable desire to do what you love despite the grave consequences involved in doing so. This film was supposedly praised for its cinematography, and man does it come through. So many great shots of the wilderness, of key images that say more about a scene than a character's dialogue, and the most wonderfully-placed lighting effects. Not all the actors here are great, with the father figure being so-so (I laughed at the delivery of one of his lines), but for this being everyone's first time, I can absolutely excuse it.

More films like this at my local theater, please.