Let Him Go

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
Let Him Go Movie Poster Image
Violent noir Western has smoking, guns, brutal moments.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 114 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Family members will do whatever it takes to keep each other safe; grandparents want to help/protect their grandchildren. Suggests that using a gun for self-defense can still result in tragedy.

Positive Role Models

While they know the law at the time wouldn't be on their side, Margaret and George show courage as well as integrity in their quest to keep their grandson safe. While Lorna is portrayed as being weak, the Blackledges are able to coax brave actions out of her. An independent, kind Native American teen shows courage in making a life on his own -- and integrity by aiding a family in need of help. On the downside, the movie paints step-family members as villainous, and the characters lean into Western/film noir stereotypes.


Fingers are violently sliced off. While guns are mostly intended to be used for self-defense (which means something different to each of the characters), viewers see repeatedly that using them leads to tragic unintended consequences. Domestic violence. A raging fire. Physical fight in which multiple attackers gang up on one victim. A man moves toward a woman in a way that suggests he may be planning to assault her. 


Married couple kisses passionately.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Negative characters smoke, including a cigar. A heroic character drinks liquor out of the bag; it's implied this happens regularly. Adults drink wine and beer with dinner.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Let Him Go is a 1960s-set Western noir adapted from Larry Watson's same-named novel. It centers on two strong-willed grandmothers (Diane Lane and Lesley Manville) who face off over the custody and well-being of their 3-year-old grandson. Adults may find lots to debate about this story and its outcome, but teens are most likely to see it as a story about grandparents who will do whatever it takes to keep their grandchildren safe. That said, the movie also paints a stepfather (and in this case, stepuncles and a stepgrandmother) as villainous, which may be upsetting for blended families. The experiences of a kind, independent Indigenous teen character (Booboo Stewart) provide insight into the cruelty of the Native American boarding schools that existed at the time. Other than smoking by negative characters and a heroic character (Kevin Costner) taking a swig from a brown bag outside a liquor store, iffy content consists primarily of violence. Most of it is related to guns (the consequences of which imply that using a gun for self-defense can still result in tragedy), and there's a glimpse of domestic abuse, as well as the intention of sexual assault. One shocking scene, all of which takes place on camera, involves an axe and the bloody, gory wound it causes.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byRoyalReviewer37 November 14, 2020

Dark and scary

The movie is about a grandmom who sees her grandsons step-dad abuse him and the mom so she goes to North Dakota to rescue him. She tries to get the mom to run a... Continue reading
Adult Written bydentalhyg1 April 11, 2021
The review states language isn't present. It is. The Lord's name is used with the word damn at least once. So, yes it is present and very unnecessary.
Teen, 14 years old Written byTeeve900 December 4, 2020

Masterful and artistic, not for everyone

A brilliant and slow paced film, best for cinephiles and future filmmakers. Fairly violent but gripping and intense. Beautiful film and should be seen by film l... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byLoranikas303 November 6, 2020
Just why but too violent!

What's the story?

In LET HIM GO, grieving couple George and Margaret Blackledge (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) are trying to rescue their young grandson. They set off from their Montana ranch to track down their daughter-in-law, Lorna (Kayli Carter), and her son in the desolate mountains of the Dakotas. There they face off with the vicious Weboy family, who have no qualms about using violence to get what they want. 

Is it any good?

Steely, gun-toting, horse-riding grandmas are very likely to have an appeal for audiences of a certain age -- and that age doesn't have "teen" in it. The story of Let Him Go plays out sort of like grandma fantasy camp: Margaret is critical of her former daughter-in-law's capability to parent, and it turns out she's right! Lorna married a bad man from a rotten family, and viewers learn that the rot comes from the root: Lorna's new mother-in-law, Blanche Weboy (Lesley Manville). After convincing the reluctant George to come with her (she's packed up all the dishes and the coffee maker; he doesn't have much of a choice), Margaret must literally ride in on her horse to save her grandson from Lorna's poor decisions.

The setting is the Great Plains (although the credits say it was shot in Alberta, Canada): The land is beautiful, and it's a visual treat to see it in all its splendor. Although well acted, the characters lean into stereotypes, but the more you embrace the idea that this film is a noir, the more you're likely to be OK with that -- and even enjoy it. George, a former sheriff who runs a ranch and tries to stay out of the way of his hard-nosed wife, is the perfect Costner role. Blanche is the cackling, nasty, red-lipsticked matriarch whom you do not cross -- her ridiculousness as a prototype is part of the pleasure. But Lane seems miscast as Margaret -- the actor's vulnerability, nervousness, and empathetic face belie the behaviors and lines coming from others to describe her: "I can see you're no day at the races." Let Him Go is a juicy bit of suspense; yes, it's over the top, and there are some holes that were undoubtedly explained in Larry Watson's source novel, but it's fun in its own way -- though the mature subject matter won't likely be too interesting to teens.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in Let Him Go. Is it realistic? Since the film is set in the past, does it make you feel like its events wouldn't happen today? What is the movie's message about guns?

  • Would you categorize this film as a Western, a noir, a thriller, a crime drama, or something else? Why?

  • What and who does the movie's title refer to? Does it make a commentary about processing grief -- and if so, does it live up to its own statement?

  • Talk about the boarding schools that Indigenous children were forced to attend in this time period. What insight do Peter's experiences offer regarding them? How are echoes of this practice still relevant today?

  • How are courage and integrity demonstrated in the film? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama and thrills

Themes & Topics

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