Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 31, 2021)
If you saw 2013’s Man of Steel and thought “hey, it sure would be good to see Ma and Pa Kent together for a full-length film”, you’re in luck. 2020’s Let Him Go reunites Diane Lane and Kevin Costner – albeit not in their Superman-related roles, of course.
Set in Montana circa the early 1960s, retired lawman George Blackledge (Costner) and his wife Margaret (Lane) reside with their only son James (Ryan Bruce), his wife Lorna (Kayli Carter), and their infant grandson Jimmy. Due to a horseriding accident, James dies.
Within three years, Lorna marries Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain), part of a clan from North Dakota. Donnie’s influence means Margaret sees little Jimmy much, and eventually Donnie forces Lorna and Jimmy to move back to North Dakota with him.
Margaret feels shocked over this sudden departure, and because she witnessed Donnie’s violence toward both Lorna and the child, she fears for Jimmy’s safety. Against his judgment, Margaret convinces George to go to North Dakota and attempt to retrieve Jimmy, a task that becomes fraught with peril.
When I referred to Go as a Man of Steel reunion, I did so with tongue at least partly in cheek. Of course, it does literally pair Lane and Costner again, but I doubt their superhero connection played much of a factor in their casting here.
That said, I suspect their prior work together gave them a head start on their Go roles. Lane and Costner need to play characters who’ve known each other for decades, so it benefits the film to use actors with some previous relationship, albeit a fairly minor one, since Ma and Pa Kent didn’t spend a ton of time onscreen in Steel.
Whether or not the fact Lane and Costner worked together seven years prior to Go made a difference, they do create a wholly believable Old Married Couple, and unquestionably, they turn into the best thing about Go. Both underplay their roles in an appropriate manner and feel true to the characters.
Face it: Go comes with plenty of room for overwrought melodrama, so it becomes more important that the actors stay on the more natural and subdued side of things. That seems especially true because various Weboys veer toward the cartoonier side of the street – especially matriarch Blanche, as Lesley Manville can play the part in a way that approaches levels of campy craziness.
Don’t take that as an insult toward Manville, as I think she gives Blanche the right touch of broad insanity. As written, the character needs to live in an incestuous cesspool of dysfunction, so it makes sense that Blanche would come across as more than a little unhinged. She might veer toward camp, but Manville gives the character the right theatrical bite.
This does make it more important that Lane and Costner tamp down any thoughts of hamminess. We need to see the Blackledges as polar opposites of the Weboys, so if either George or Margaret seems over the top, the soufflé collapses.
Not that I think Lane or Costner needed to restrain themselves, as both have always tended toward low-key performances. It’s not like the filmmakers asked Nicolas Cage to tone down his shtick, so Lane and Costner remain within their wheelhouses.
They give just the right life to their roles, as Lane and Costner make the characters realistic and impactful. They connect in a natural manner and add personality and depth to the tale.
Writer/director Thomas Bezucha created 2005’s appalling Family Stone. I didn’t know that when I went into Go, and I’m glad, as my disdain for the awful Stone probably would’ve biased me against this film.
Whereas Bezucha delivered a wholly absurd and overwrought family story with Stone, he goes in precisely the opposite direction for Go, and that makes all the difference. Not that Bezucha turns Go into a bloodless affair, as he provides plenty of emotion along the way.
Bezucha simply doesn’t force these domains. He allows the material to emerge in a subtle and smooth manner without the melodrama that would harpoon it.
All of this adds up to a fairly compelling drama. Blessed with an excellent cast and an involving narrative, the movie holds the audience.