The last time we saw Kevin Costner and Diane Lane paired up on screen they were Jonathan and Martha Kent, adoptive parents of Clark “Superman” Kent. Once again, they are parents who suffer a loss, but their kryptonite, the thing that makes them weak, isn’t a Krypton crystal but a grandson named Jimmy.
In the early moments of “Let Him Go,” now playing in theatres, Margaret and George Blackledge (Lane and Costner) suffer an unimaginable loss when their son is killed while riding horseback on their Montana ranch. Left behind are grandson Jimmy (played by Bram Hornung and Otto Hornung) and daughter-in-law Lorna (Kayli Carter).
Life goes on and several years later Lorna remarries, tying the knot with Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain), a terse, violent man who doesn’t invite any family to the wedding. Days later Margaret’s suspicions are raised when she sees Donnie bullying Jimmy and hitting Lorna in public. The next day, stopping by to do a wellness check—with a freshly baked Bundt cake in hand—she discovers that Donnie, without saying a word, relocates Lorna and Jimmy to North Dakota.
Determined to find out where they are and why they left, Margaret packs up the car, and after some discussion, convinces George, a retired sheriff, to come along.
Their investigation reveals the Weboy clan to be a badlands crime family, run by powerful matriarch Blanche Weboy (Lesley Manville). It was Blanche who ordered Donnie to come home and now that the family is reunited, including Lorna and Jimmy, the Blackledges discover she will use any means necessary to keep the fam together.
“Let Him Go” is a love story disguised as a crime drama. Margaret and George’s relationship has a comfortable, lived-in vibe but their love for Jimmy is the engine that drives the story. We don’t get to know the youngster but without him and a grandparent’s love, and to a lesser degree, Blanche’s twisted love for her family, there is no story.
Director Thomas Bezucha, who also wrote the script based on Larry Watson’s novel of the same name, takes his time laying the groundwork leading up to the explosive climax. The slow pace echoes the speed of life in mid-1950s Montana but, in the movie’s first half, tests the limits of the audience’s patience. The malevolent menace projected by Blanche brings the movie to a simmer but it takes too long to come to a full boil.
Costner and Lane bring an authenticity to their performances that make them completely believable as a couple of 40 years and later, when things heat up, a partnership who can get the job done. Costner has aged out of being an action star but he does something different here. He’s older and more physically vulnerable, but his years of experience as a lawman give George gravitas when he needs it.
“Let Him Go” has interesting elements, beautiful landscape photography and some well-rounded characters you can get behind—and others you may enjoy hating—but the story tangents and leisurely pacing blunt the effectiveness of the storytelling.