This is a well-plotted movie with an unusual plot arc that moves from family sorrow to Gothic horror, all set in the largely empty western interior from Montana to North Dakota in the early 1960s.
The main characters are Margaret and George Blackledge (Diane Ladd and Kevin Costner), long-married ranchers whose son is killed in an accident.
A couple years later, the son’s widow, Lorna (Kayli Carter), remarries and leaves the Blackledges’ home with their toddler grandson to live with her new husband, Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain) in an apartment in town.
That there was tension between Lorna and Margaret is hinted; that Lorna is uncomfortable with her new husband is suggested more strongly.
Then Margaret, sitting in her car in the grocery store parking lot, sees Lorna and her son being abused by the new husband.
Margaret decides to investigate, nice-lady style, by taking a fresh-baked cake to the new family’s home the next day. There she learns that Lorna, Donnie and grandson Jimmy have upped stakes and left without leaving a forwarding address.
George, a retired sheriff who is stoical but no less resolute, understands his wife. When she loads the car and says she is going to find their grandchild, he joins her.
The strong relationship between these two is rendered effectively and in a minimal style. The losses of a son and then a grandson resonate but without noise. The quiet harmony of their life in the first act contrasts with the drama that follows.
Their journey takes them to the North Dakota home of the Weboys, a family whose line of work is unclear but who scare everybody in the surrounding region. The Weboy sons provide the muscle, and their mother, Blanche (Lesley Manville), is the family leader — plainspoken, brassy and downright menacing.
One short visit to the Weboy house convinces the Blackledges that they must rescue their grandson and also his mother, if she is willing.
Naturally, this is not a simple matter. Margaret and George work together as a team (and with a Native American character imported apparently to provide a useful ally) as the conflict gathers suspense and moves to its fiery end, which is difficult to watch but is faithful to the story as it has been laid out.
This movie was made in 2019 and was released on November 6 on about 2,500 screens, a lot this year, where it sold well, again for this year. It is available now for streaming at a cost of $20 and is best watched on a large screen.
The source material is a novel of the same name by Larry Watson, who seems to mingle personal and action themes and who is familiar with the northern interior between the Rocky Mountains and the upper Midwest.
The screenwriter and director, Thomas Bezucha, decided to make the film after reading the book. Michael Giacchino, a veteran film musician, has delivered a score that enhances the film’s themes.
Note: “Let Him Go” was shot in Alberta, Canada, in sites that are similar enough to locations enough to locations in the story.