With an older brother in jail and living with their single mother on Pine Ridge Reservation, Johnny and his sister Jashuan's lives develop new challenges when their absentee cowboy father ... See full summary »
Jashaun St. John,
Jong-su bumps into a girl who used to live in the same neighborhood as him, who asks him to look after her cat while on a trip to Africa. When back, she introduces Ben, a mysterious guy she met there, who confesses his secret hobby.
Brady Blackburn, a rodeo bronc rider with some renown, learned everything he knows about horses and riding from his parents, Wayne and the now deceased Mari Blackburn. Brady is recovering from a fall off a bronking horse in a rodeo, the most serious of the injuries being a skull fracture which required a metal plate being inserted into his head. Including checking himself out of the hospital earlier than advised, Brady is determined to get back up onto the literal and proverbial horse as quickly as possible as being a cowboy is all he knows. But deep in his heart he knows that returning to the rodeo in particular is something that is probably not in the cards without increased risks, which is eventually confirmed by his doctor who tells him that he cannot sustain another serious head injury without some major consequence. He does not even want his friends and family to treat him with kid gloves in being able to do any of those physical activities which are part and parcel for him of ...Written by
Writer and director Chloé Zhao first met Brady Jandreau during her research for her earlier film, Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015). She visited the ranch where Jandreau was working and he was teaching her how to ride a horse. She wanted to put him in one of her films, and when he had the accident that left him with life changing head injuries, she decided to base the script for her next film on his story. See more »
While watching the end credits of this film, I noticed that Brady Jandreau is mentioned twice: as the lead actor, and as the horse trainer. It's a way of telling the audience that Jandreau is, in fact, playing himself, or at least a version of his personality.
Brady Jandreau - only his last name is changed for his movie role - is a rodeo rider who is recovering from a near-fatal head injury. Doctors tell him he should never ride again, but after having spent some weeks working in a supermarket, he comes to the conclusion that there's only one thing that makes him happy: riding rodeo's.
It's a simple story, but it is told with lots of empathy for the heart wrenching choices Brady has to make. We can see him wrestling with his fate and in the end, he knows that he is meant to ride horses, 'just as a horse is meant to run across the prairie'.
There are several side stories deepening the insight in Brady's predicament. His teenage sister is mentally challenged, the family is poor and lives in a trailer, and he has to say goodbye to two of his favorite horses.
The film can be interpreted as a heroic tale of perserverence and dedication. Brady lives for the rodeo, and the viewer understands why he gets a kick out of the horses, the clothing, the masculinity and the competition. The director indicates this in subtle scenes. For example when he decides to pawn his custom made saddle, because he needs the money. At the last moment, he changes his mind.
But you can also interpret this film a a sad story of a man who has only limited possibilities in life because of the environment he grows up in. Brady really has nothing else in his life, and is not capable of even imagining changing it. One of the saddest scenes in the film is when Brady visits another rodeo hero, who is paralyzed for life after a fall, and lives in a care facility. Helped by three assistants, Brady lifts his friend on a wooden horse, puts a cowboy hat on his head and makes him move as if he is riding a horse. Even this terrible example doesn't deter Brady from continuing rodeo riding.
The cinematograpy is beautiful, with plenty of shots showing the treeless prairies of the empty American heartland in all its beauty. It also gives a nice insight into the rodeo world, a cultural phenomenon as essential to the American West as bull fighting is to Spain. But it's essentially a film about a man fighting the odds to do what he wants to do.
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