The Rider is a 2017 film directed by Chloé Zhao. It is based on the true story of Brady Jandreau and his family, who play themselves in the film.
Brady Blackburn was once a talented and admired rodeo rider, but an accident in the ring crushed his skull and very nearly caused his death. Brady undergoes surgery and slowly recovers, but his injury slows his ability to return to the rodeo, and the longer it takes the more he begins to question how much value his life will have.
The Rider contains examples of:
- As Himself: Brady, Lilly, Charlie, and most of the cast play characters based on themselves, portraying events loosely based on their own lives.
- Bittersweet Ending: Brady decides to leave the rodeo career and continue living with his family. While he can still ride and train horses, he can't overexert himself by riding for too long without putting himself at risk of a seizure.
- Calling the Old Man Out: When Wayne encounters Brady running off for one last rodeo, Brady calls him out for being rude and belittling and constantly wasting the family's money, claiming he'll never be like his father. The outburst actually shocks Wayne enough to giving a darn about his son's wellbeing, coming to the rodeo and therefore inspiring Brady to return home.
- Career-Ending Injury:
- Brady's accident has interrupted his career, and while he's sure he can recover enough to return, that return starts to look less and less likely. And in the end he decides to give it up.
- Lane Scott, Brady's friend and former rodeo rider himself, is permanently paralyzed following a bull riding gone wrong.note
- Disabled Character, Disabled Actor: Like their characters, Brady genuinely has epilepsy from a skull fracture, Lilly is autistic, Lane is paralyzed, and the local stable owner has a prosthetic arm.
- Driven to Suicide: As time passes, Brady's yearning to returning to the rodeo starts grow from insisting he can resume a career to seemingly not caring if he dies the second time around. Ultimately he manages to walk away from it and keep living.
- Failed a Spot Check: At one point, Brady carries on a whole conversation with a visitor before noticing his sister stuck tiny star stickers all over him while he was sleeping.
- Finishing Each Other's Sentences: Lane can only communicate through sign language, Brady being familiar enough to recognize what Lane is spelling out and finishing his statements for him.
- Hollywood Autism: Averted. Lilly Blackburn, Brady's little sister, is portrayed realistically with her actress's own condition. She is sweet, loves singing, sometimes stubborn when it comes to dressing "properly", and very much loves her brother.
- Limited Wardrobe: Lilly is always wearing pajama pants, even when going outside the home. She also pointedly refuses to wear a bra, cutting up the one her father buys her.
- Magical Native American: Averted. Nearly all the characters are Lakota Sioux, living on the Pine Ridge Reservation, but completely unlike stereotypes, being cowboys, Christian, and integrated with non-Native institutions.
- Mercy Kill: When Apollo tears its leg on barbed wire, Brady intends to kill the crippled horse. He can't bring himself to do it, though, and his father ends up killing Apollo instead. The incident leaves a heavy emotional toll on Brady, beginning to view himself as like that horse.
- Missing Mom: Brady and Lilly's mother has died before the events of the film.note
- Pride Before a Fall: Before we meet Lane as he is, paralyzed and staying in an assisted living facility, we see footage of him before his accident, where he was a cocky rodeo rider boasting that he was basically Superman.
- Soul-Sucking Retail Job: Unable to return to horse training while his injury is still fresh, Brody spends his days working at a retail store, so empty he's the only employee ever seen.
- Throw It In!: The scene of Brady taming a never ridden horse? His actor really was doing just that. The scene wasn't in the script, but Brady offered to demonstrate the process for Zhao, and it was filmed over the course of forty minutes of him interacting with the horse.
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Happens when Brady rides Apollo for too long on a hot day, causing him to get a seizure. He stumbles off the horse, throws up, and then falls unconscious.