“The Rider”: The First Great Western of Our Time

The cast list of The Rider shows that everyone is playing fictional versions of themselves and that the film is an abridged version of their actual story and struggles. The movie is the ultimate verisimilitude of life lived in and intimately told.

It is also a cowboy and Indian story. Everyone, despite their appearance to the contrary, is a full blooded Oglala Lakota Sioux, who are working cowboys and rodeo pros. The tale of Brady’s brain injury, damage, partial recovery and refusal to give up the rodeo life that he loves is universal to both the Indian and American experience.

The Rider is a heartbreaking portrayal of those who can and cannot give up, of those living broken lives with broken dreams and broken hopes. Director Chloe Zhao raises it all beyond mere documentary to something profoundly elegiac and poetic. It is truly the first great Western of our time.

The Rider was filmed not far from Wounded Knee and the paradox of that South Dakota Place as it coincides with Brady’s existence echoes in every frame.

This is a film everyone should experience and know.

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