Young rodeo rider Brady (Jandreau) dreams of making his fortune and finding fame bucking broncos, but a serious accident in the ring leaves him with a brain injury that threatens his future. Sick of the dead-end job he is forced to take to keep his family afloat, he ignores his physical ailments and returns to training horses. But life is hard on the South Dakota plains, and he soon faces some tough choices.
Bridging documentary and drama, Zhao’s achingly poignant second feature examines the harsh realities of cowboy life on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Jandreau is miraculous, playing himself without an ounce of self-consciousness, and indeed the same holds true for the rest of the cast. Gorgeous cinematography and the palpable bond between Jandreau and his horses draw us in to this authentic story about a man questioning what’s left of his existence when what he loves most has been taken away. Saddle up for “The Rider”!