Let Him Go (R16, 114 mins) Directed by Thomas Bezucha ****
The casting of a film can bring with it a quite unearned emotional freight.
The last time we saw Diane Lane and Kevin Costner playing a married couple, raising a handsome young man in rural North America, the film was 2013's Man of Steel, and their adopted son was Clark Kent, known to you and me as the indestructible Superman.
So when we see Lane and Costner's son, early in Let Him Go, laying broken-necked and irreversibly dead after an off-screen fall from his horse, it brings with it a creeping, whispering possibility that, whatever story is about to be unfurled here, there is no certainty that the good guys will win in the end.
Lane and Costner are Margaret and George Blackledge. The year is 1963 and the place is rural Montana.
Son James was married and the father of an infant son. When his widow Lorna remarries, Margaret and George are at the wedding, happy that their grandson Jimmy will be a part of a new family. But that family are a fearsome clan of criminals and bullies living well outside the law.
Fearing for Jimmy's safety, the couple drive the hundreds of miles to the Weboy's homestead in North Dakota, hoping to bring Jimmy and maybe Lorna home with them. Nothing good ensues.
Let Him Go is a savage and, at times, brutal film. Moments buried within the quietness and poignancy of the opening scenes might well telegraph some of the hell that is waiting for Margaret and George across the state line, but it was only after the film that I started to think about any of the markers that director Thomas Bezucha (The Family Stone) had maybe put down.
Before that, I guess I was too busy being entranced by the work that Lane, Costner and cinematographer Guy Godfree do here, making gruff poetry out of Bezucha's lean script. And then being basically terrified by Lesley Manville, tearing up the screen as Blanche, the monstrous Weboy matriarch.
Let Him Go is mostly terrific. The stunning landscapes, hot spikes of sudden violence and the lyricism of what passes unsaid between the leads, combine into an unsettling and engrossing whole. Recommended.