Chloé Zhao has built her career exploring the seemingly insignificant lives of people inhabiting the wide-open landscapes of America. She won the TIFF 2020 People’s Choice Award for her road trip through the West with Nomadland, and in the TIFF 2017 selection_ The Rider_, she aimed her camera at the country’s heartland for an intimate look at a young man in search of meaning.
When Brady Blackburn, a skilled rodeo cowboy and horse trainer, suffers a near-fatal accident that abruptly halts his career, he’s left to contemplate a new way to fill his time. The ability to ride defines a man’s worth in Brady’s world. Though riding and horses are never far from his thoughts, Brady now spends his days working at the local supermarket and his nights drinking with his buddies.
Having lost his mother to cancer years ago, and with a rarely present, borderline alcoholic father, Brady finds himself responsible for his 15-year-old sister, Lilly. With his limited education, money and local fame may seem easiest to come by in the world of rodeo — but so are injury, and even death.
Stoic and fearless with a rare sense of authenticity, Zhao embraces the humanity of her characters and explores definitions of masculinity without glorification or judgment. The Rider is less a western than a film about the real American west.
“[Chloé Zhao] has an eye for landscape and an acute sensitivity to the nuances of storytelling, a bold, exacting vision that makes The Rider exceptional among recent American regional-realist films.” –A.O. Scott, The New York Times
Content advisories: coarse language, drug use