Somewhere at the intersection of fiction and documentary lies Chloé Zhao’s fascinating profile of men left wondering if they can still think of themselves as men. Rodeo rider Brady Jandreau plays a thinly fictionalized version of himself named Brady Blackburn, who has been sidelined by a traumatic head injury after being thrown from a bull. Zhao weaves Jandreau’s real-life injury into a story that also addresses a rider named Lane Scott left even more severely incapacitated by a riding injury, and casts Jandreau’s family members—including his special-needs sister—as Blackburn’s family. Life on and around South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation provides the rich background of yards filled with engine blocks and junk, and people struggling to get by. But mostly it takes Jandreau’s naturalistic performance and explores both his physical recovery and the emotional challenge of being expected to “ride through the pain” and show that you’re “not a little bitch.” Whatever might be lost in the use of amateur performers is made up in the powerful portrayal of trying to fight the feeling that you’re no longer worth anything in this world.
Director: Chloé Zhao
Producer: Mollye Asher, Sacha Harroche, Bert Hamelinck, Chloé Zhao, Dickey Abedon, Michael Sagol and Jasper Thomlinson
Cast: Brady Jandreau, Tim Jandreau, Lilly Jandreau, Lane Scott, Cat Clifford, Derrick Janis, Tanner Langdeau and Terri Pourier