The acting in The Rider is flawless, with extraordinary performances by a cast of non-actors basically playing themselves. Brady Jandreau plays a dramatized version of himself, Brady Blackburn. (Photo contributed)

Column: The Rider draws from real-life rodeo tale

By Joanne Sargent, Observer contributor

The Shuswap Film Society isn’t presenting a film this Saturday as we’ve found people are out and about enjoying their long weekend.

One of the events folks might take in this weekend is the 100th annual Falkland Stampede. However you may feel about rodeos, the one thing that’s true is that, as with all high-risk activities, there is always a chance of someone getting hurt. Our movie next Saturday, May 26, is an American film, The Rider, the true story of a rising star on the rodeo circuit who faces the end of his career when he suffers a near-fatal head injury during competition.

Brady Jandreau is the cowboy who, at 20 years of age, at a rodeo in Fargo, North Dakota, got his foot caught in a stirrup and the bucking bronc stepped on his head. The actual clip of the accident is included in the film. He woke up five days later with a plate in his skull and orders from his doctor not to ride again because one more head injury could kill him. Brady is forced to abandon the very thing that has defined him, not just rodeo, but his sole purpose in life, which has been riding and training horses.

The acting in The Rider is flawless, with extraordinary performances by a cast of non-actors basically playing themselves. Brady Jandreau plays a dramatized version of himself, Brady Blackburn. He is a surprisingly good actor and has often been compared to a young Heath Ledger. Jandreau’s real father, Tim, and on-the-spectrum sister, Lilly, play themselves and are potent real-life people. Campfire conversations with his rodeo buddies portray the bond created by a passion that risks life and limb. Brady’s best friend, Lane Scott, who was also a rodeo star, plays himself. He is paralyzed, can’t speak, and suffers uncontrollable body spasms, the result of a car accident. The two are like brothers, and their interactions provide some of the most emotional moments in the movie.

The Rider is a deeply moving, mostly factual story pulled from the lives of the “actors,” most of whom (including the Jandeaus) are members of the Lakota Sioux tribe in South Dakota. Guns, horses, and pot play significant roles throughout as does the stunning South Dakota landscape, showing the American heartland in all its beauty. Everything in the movie feels authentic and raw, including the “hyper-masculine” subculture of rodeo. The very personal story sheds light on the lives of modern cowboys.

The Rider, rated 14A, shows twice, at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on May 26 at the Salmar Classic.

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