After The Fall: A Cowboy Picks Up The Pieces Of His Former Life In 'The Rider' Filmmaker Chloe Zhao (Songs My Brother Taught Me) tells the sensitive and searching tale of a young cowboy (Brady Jandreau) confronting his uncertain future.
NPR logo

After The Fall: A Cowboy Picks Up The Pieces Of His Former Life In 'The Rider'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/601588058/601951597" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
After The Fall: A Cowboy Picks Up The Pieces Of His Former Life In 'The Rider'

Review

Movie Reviews

After The Fall: A Cowboy Picks Up The Pieces Of His Former Life In 'The Rider'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/601588058/601951597" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Eight seconds - that's how long a rodeo cowboy must stay on a bucking bronco to get a score. In the new movie "The Rider," audiences see how one cowboy made it through those eight seconds then had his life changed by what happened one second later. Critic Bob Mondello calls the film a modern-day Western with a hero who's a real discovery.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Brady is a horse trainer and rodeo rider who lives for the excitement of the competition - music blaring, crowd roaring, horses bucking as riders hold on for dear life. He still gets an adrenaline rush every time he goes. But for a while now he's watched from the sidelines. A freak riding accident that was captured on TV, allowing him to relive it, left him in a coma for three days. Now he has a metal plate in his head and orders from his doctor.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE RIDER")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) No more riding. No more rodeos. If you don't stop, your seizures are going to get worse.

MONDELLO: This is a little like telling Brady not to breathe. He's 21, lives in South Dakota, and has been training horses since he was 8. When his dad decides to sell their horse Gus, it's like he's losing a member of the family.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE RIDER")

BRADY JANDREAU: (As Brady Blackburn) Carry Gus in his travels, Lord. Just be with him all the time and protect him. Keep him safe. God and Jesus, hear my prayer. Amen.

MONDELLO: Brady's buddies, sitting around the campfire, smoking weed and strumming guitars, also pray for fallen comrades - for Lane, for instance, Brady's best pal who was grievously injured riding a rodeo bull.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE RIDER")

JANDREAU: (As Brady Blackburn) We are him, and he is us. We're all one in this together. (Foreign language spoken).

MONDELLO: Those last phrases tell you that these cowboys, pale complexions notwithstanding, are Native American. There's a feather tucked into Brady's Stetson to honor his Lakota ancestry though he looks like a slender, handsome Marlboro Man when astride a horse, pretty much the only place he feels alive. The fellow playing Brady in "The Rider" is Brady Jandreau. And as that suggests, there's a lot of overlap between the story we're seeing and the performer's story. The scar on his head, the plate in his head is real. So is the TV footage of his being thrown, and also the question of where he goes from here.

Writer-director Chloe Zhao met Brady before his accident and fashioned the film's story from its aftermath. Many filmmakers blending fiction and fact this way would emphasize the documentary aspects. Zhao captures the look and feel of classic Westerns - wide-open prairies, sky for days, majestic sunsets, and ever at the center this wounded cowboy who is so gentle with horses, even ones who are crazy skittish.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE RIDER")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Nobody's ever been on his back. Nobody's touched him.

MONDELLO: Brady holds out one hand for the horse to examine, sidles closer, moves back when the horse steps his way, approaches when the horse pulls back. It's a dance. And it gets results.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE RIDER")

JANDREAU: (As Brady Blackburn) Good boy.

MONDELLO: The horse that no one had ever touched is soon allowing Brady to put one arm over its back to put a leg up.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE RIDER")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Did you learn this on your own or someone teach you?

JANDREAU: (As Brady Blackburn) My mom and dad.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Your mom and dad?

JANDREAU: (As Brady Blackburn) Taught me about everything I know. And I learned a lot being on their back, looking down them ears. Oh, good boy. You didn't even know you did that, did you?

MONDELLO: Brady is just as attuned to the feelings of his best friend Lane, who's doing rehab after being paralyzed in a far worse accident. It's hard to watch these two young men as emotions overcome their cowboy reserve without your eyes brimming. But as wrenching as "The Rider" sometimes is, it is also suspenseful, heartbreakingly beautiful and humane. There's a reason it took the top prize at the Directors' Fortnight awards in Cannes. "The Rider" is an exhilarating ride. I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.