What if you could no longer do the one thing you believed you were born to do? That’s the question at the heart of the movie The Rider. Filmed on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and directed by a young Beijing filmaker Chloe Zhao the main characters are all played by local people of the Lakota Sioux nation and not professional actors.
Brady the young man at the center of the story is a professional rodeo rider who can no longer ride because of a devastating head injury. His best friend has suffered a life altering injury as well and Brady’s kindness and care for him as well as for his autistic sister Lily make him such an appealing character. His mother has died, his Dad drinks and gambles too much and the family lives in poverty. Brady has a lot on his shoulders.
The scenery of the South Dakota badlands in this movie is breathtaking, the relationship between Brady and his horses magical and there is a religious aspect too that is thought provoking. Brady really believes God has put him on this earth to ride, but now that he can’t ride what is he to make of God? How can life still have meaning?
This is a profoundly sad movie with no uplifting Hollywood solutions. I chatted with a woman who is a concert pianist on the way out of the theater and she was wondering what she would do if she could no longer play the piano. I wondered what I would do if I could no longer write. What do you think would happen to you if you were no longer able to do the thing you love the most?
We saw the movie at Cinematheque and there are still a couple more showings this week.