A Non-Actor Wows Critics in The Rider

Brady Jandreau, director Chloé Zhao getting high praise
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2018 12:29 PM CDT

(Newser) The Rider is an American cowboy tale from a relatively new Chinese director. It also features a cast of people who've never acted before. And it's apparently awesome. Brady Jandreau, a real-life cowboy who suffered a brain injury in a 2016 fall, stars alongside his friends and family members in Chloé Zhao's new feature, a lightly fictionalized telling of his struggle to get back on a horse. What critics are saying:

  • Describing it as an "achingly beautiful heartland elegy," Justin Chang says The Rider "comes as close to a spiritual experience as anything I've encountered in a movie theater this year." He credits its "gorgeous frontier lyricism" and star at the Los Angeles Times. "Is Jandreau acting, or merely being? I'd suggest a third option somewhere in between, in that mysterious realm where art resides," he writes.
  • "How many stirring moments does it take to make a great movie? Whatever the number, The Rider has more than enough," writes Joe Morgenstern at the Wall Street Journal. His review describes an "ineffably beautiful drama" of intense bonds and "masculine pride," benefited by the "complexity and poignancy" Jandreau brings. "It's a rare treat to be so affected by—and connected to—a movie hero of so few words, and such vivid ones," Morgenstern says.

  • At the Atlantic, David Sims calls The Rider "the best film I've seen so far in 2018." Far from "amateurish," it "feels like the announcement of a major artistic talent in Zhao," who "blends narrative with documentary seamlessly, giving the audience a glimpse into a way of life rarely seen on the big screen." Sims point outs "a remarkable training sequence that … Zhao allows to play out near-wordlessly."
  • Noting Terrence Malick's influence on Zhao's work, Godrey Cheshire says "the apprentice here emerges as a master." The Rider is "the best American movie this critic has seen in the past year" and "the kind of rare work that seems to attain greatness through an almost alchemical fusion of nominal opposites," he writes at RogerEbert.com. Zhao should be thanking her lucky stars that she met Jandreau, he adds. "Watching him is breathtaking."
(Read more movie review stories.)

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